Ian Tuttle - St. Johns College

The chant of “drill, baby, drill,” is sounding from an interesting corner. The University of Tennessee has proposed a plan to allow hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas on state-owned land—here’s the twist—to give the university an opportunity to study the environmental impacts of “fracking.” The research would be funded using the revenues from the extracted natural gas.

It’s a “fundamental conflict of interest,” says Gwen Parker, a staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is trying to block the move. But the unprecedented plan has powerful supporters (including Tennessee governor Bill Haslam) and the aura of “so-crazy-it-just-might-work.”

The land in question is an 8,000-acre patch of mature woodlands in the Cumberland Plateau that the university’s agriculture department has overseen since 1947. It currently operates the forest as an outdoor laboratory. Environmental groups are loath to see one of the state’s few mature Cumberland Mountains forests disturbed, but the university believes there is little to worry about. Because the drilling would take place on state-owned land, the university would maintain strict oversight of the project.

And contentions aside, it’s a timely project. Hydraulic fracturing uses high-pressure blasts of sand and water to create fractures in shale through which natural gas can escape. But if that technology, which is making accessible enough natural gas to power the United States for years to come (not to mention generating revenues in the billions of dollars), has revolutionized an industry, it has also become a prime target of environmental groups, who claim that the process could release harmful methane into the air and contaminate groundwater.

Determining whether those fears are warranted is the University of Tennessee’s goal.

“There are questions surrounding natural gas extraction and we have the facilities, and we have the faculty, so we have the obligation to investigate in an unbiased, scientific way to provide those answers,” Dr. William F. Brown, dean of research and director of the university’s Agricultural Experiment Station, tells the Associated Press.

But the proposal is quickly becoming another battleground in the debate about academic “independence,” which, particularly when it comes to fracking research, has sparked conflict on other campuses.

The University of Texas (Austin) Energy Institute came under fire for a 2012 study on the environmental consequences of fracking that had as its principal investigator a paid board member of an energy firm that conducts hydraulic fracturing. The State University of New York at Buffalo shut down its Shale Resources and Society Institute last year after outside groups questioned a study on fracking co-authored by the institute’s co-director, who previously did public relations work for an upstate New York energy firm.

But Brown rejects the notion that there is an ethical problem in the University of Tennessee plan. “We need to get past this notion that if the university works with an industry, that somehow we are compromised or tainted.”

Moreover, such partnerships are becoming more attractive as government research grants shrink and universities struggle to find the money to conduct the type of large-scale research required by fracking. Still, the faculty selected to conduct research will be screened for energy industry connections.

Tennessee’s State Building Commission unanimously approved the university’s proposal on March 15, opening the process to bids from outside drilling companies. The commission will have to approve the final contract.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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When Julea Ward, a Christian and a graduate student in Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program, asked a professor if she should refer, rather than treat, a student seeking guidance about a homosexual relationship, she was hauled before a university review board and expelled.

More recently, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a lower court’s ruling, declared that the university violated Ward’s First Amendment rights. Ward received $75,000 in a settlement.

This month, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill inspired by Ward’s case that would prohibit public universities from disciplining students who “refuse to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling services.”

The measure, sponsored in the House by Democrat John J. DeBerry and in the senate by Republican Joey Hensley, is a common-sense measure to protect the conscience rights of students in counseling, social work, and psychology programs.

The Michigan House last year passed a bill with this exact wording, and Arizona passed into law a similar measure in 2011.

Blame much of the ongoing controversy over the bill on the media. Raw Story introduced the story with the headline, “Tennessee Bill Allows Christian Counselors to Reject Suicidal LGBT Students.” Huffington Post writer William McGuinness hedged, “While arguably sensational, the headline is true,” then went on to grind his axe: “The bill claims student counselors are protected based on a constitutional prohibition of religious discrimination, while basically letting counselors discriminate against clients based on their sexual orientation.”

Left out of both the Huffington Post and Raw Story coverage is the bill’s crucial if clause: the school cannot discipline “if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling services.”

Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the Phoenix-based Christian legal group that represented Julea Ward, noted in a January op-ed at Townhall.com that the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics permits referrals should a counselor determine an “inability to be of professional assistance.”

“Permissible referrals would include,” writes Tedesco, “an atheist counselor referring a Christian client seeking help with a crisis of faith, and a pro-abortion counselor referring a pregnant client who wants to keep her baby.” These “values-based referrals” are permitted “precisely because they are in the best interests of the client.”

But the coverage of the proposed legislation is less interested in the best interests of these clients than in manufacturing outrage toward attitudes that are, to the Huffington Post, et al., out of vogue.

The Tennessee bill, like its predecessors in Michigan and Arizona, does not permit out-of-hand rejection of disagreeable clients. It simply gives legal protection to persons who follow professional standards.

In a saner age, we would not need a law for that.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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IMAGE: Alliance Defending Freedom/Shown is Julea Ward

At Yale, there’s “Sex Week,” during which porn stars are welcomed to campus to demonstrate their craft. At Harvard, there’s Munch, a student club for BDSM enthusiasts. At North Carolina State University, there’s “Dirty Bingo,” replete with school-provided vibrators, dildos and edible underwear.

Those are just a few of the more gratuitous examples of the hypersexualized American university, where the “hook-up culture,” about which much ink has been spilled, dominates. But while various campuses’ sexual activities have garnered much press, efforts to create a campus culture that encourages an alternative sexual ethics have been largely ignored.

Enter the Anscombe Society. Founded at Princeton University in 2005, the student organization is “dedicated to affirming the importance of the family, marriage, and a proper understanding for the role of sex and sexuality.”

Named for prominent twentieth-century philosopher Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (more commonly Elizabeth or G.E.M. Anscombe), whose work vigorously defended traditional sexual ethics, Princeton’s Anscombe Society seeks to discourage hookups and offer an alternative view of sexuality than that which currently predominates.

“Unchastity is making people deeply unhappy on campus,” says the society’s president emeritus Audrey Pollnow (’13).

For those who believe that chastity—a word that has all but disappeared from contemporary discourse about sexuality—can encourage healthier, happier relationships, the Anscombe Society offers an “intellectual advocacy group.”

But for those who do not believe that, Anscombe’s members are ready to debate.

The organization is devoted to “cultivating an intellectual community” where issues of sexuality can be discussed with seriousness and openness. The society is religiously unaffiliated and politically nonpartisan, and Pollnow says that, while they stake out positions on various hot-button issues (eg. same-sex marriage), members try to avoid heated debates that take the society away from its main mission, which is primarily philosophical and advocacy-oriented.

Despite existing on a campus with some 300 student-led organizations, the Anscombe Society, with ten participating members and 70 students on its mailing list, is a visible presence at Princeton. They regularly team up with Princeton Pro-Life to host events where students have the opportunity to speak to incoming freshman or alumni. Says Pollnow, “It’s a chance to let the community see we’re active.”

The society sponsors a Valentine’s Day poster campaign to draw attention to the hook-up culture. They don’t go in for scare tactics, says Pollnow;“We like to keep it positive.”

She recalls a recent year’s poster, which reminded students that “Not everyone is doing it” and included statistics about sexual activity on campus. Pollnow notes that 75 percent of Princeton students have one or no sexual partner in a year. “That is helpful for people to know. It helps people to avoid the social pressures that are often associated with the hook-up culture.”

The Anscombe Society also is able to bring speakers once or twice a year. Recently, Dr. Miriam Grossman, a longtime adolescent psychiatrist at UCLA and author of Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student, spoke to students, showing how the medical profession had accepted sexual education practices that failed to provide students with accurate medical information. They have also welcomed to campus Eve Tushnet, a prominent lesbian Catholic journalist and chastity supporter, who writes about homosexuality and the Church.

Members of the Anscombe Society also frequently contribute to the Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s newspaper, and participate in or sponsor debates and panels.

Promoting traditional sexual ethics on a university campus can be a dangerous task, but Pollnow says that, with the exception of the occasional hostile comment posted anonymously to one of their Princetonian articles, most people are “respectful and well-intentioned.”

Students and faculty who disagree, she says, are often interested in learning more and discussing their differing viewpoints.

“There has definitely been progress in cultivating the seriousness of the discourse,” she says, and she notes that an anonymously written series called “Love and Lust in the Bubble: Falling Out of Hooking Up” popped up in the Princetonian during the fall 2012 semester—and it wasn’t courtesy of the Anscombe Society. “It gives me great hope to see that sort of thing happening.”

Princeton is ground zero for the pushback against the hook-up culture, but its success is spreading. Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and the University of Texas (Austin) all now boast an Anscombe Society, and more are likely to appear—in part because of the Love & Fidelity Network, a national organization dedicated to “building the next generation of leaders for marriage, family, and sexual integrity,” whose founder, Cassandra Hough (nee DeBenedetto), co-founded Princeton’s Anscombe Society before graduating in 2007.

Princeton’s Anscombe members are confident that more can be done to transform the hook-up culture. They hope that the freshman orientation program can include additional information about the oft-neglected emotional and psychological aspects of sex; they would like to see a counselor brought to campus who could provide students interested in abstinence a “safe space”; they are considering the possibility of a “mini-course” that would offer pro-chastity students the opportunity to learn how to discuss chastity in a non-religious context. And, of course, there will be much more.

Over the course of the Anscombe Society’s eight years, what has become clear, says Pollnow, is that “there are a lot of people who really do hate the hook-up culture. They hate this atmosphere that pressures them to hook up.”

But there is an alternative just a classroom away.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The revolution will not be televised.

That, at least, seemed to be the message of the most recent March for Life, held Friday, Jan. 25, in Washington, D.C.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual protest, likely making it the biggest year in the event’s history. And yet, on the mile-long route from the National Mall to the steps of the Supreme Court, the only news camera visible was from the Catholic network, EWTN.

Event organizers are used to the media blackout. The March brought approximately as many people to Washington as President Obama’s second inauguration, held just four days before—but only one event received 24 hours of wall-to-wall coverage. As a friend in attendance observed, “If we were protesting anything else…”

She’s right. In its 40-year history, the March for Life has become the world’s largest civil protest—and is met annually with almost complete radio silence. 20,000 attended the first March in January 1974, led by Nellie Gray, a D.C.-area attorney, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision (which, decided 40 years ago last week, has since led to 55 million abortions). Four decades in, unless you’re already connected to pro-life circles, you likely would not know the March is happening.

Still, March for Life is managing to get its message out. The protest march along Constitution Avenue is preceded by a rally, which annually features a number of pro-life legislators and other activists, among them this year Kentucky senator Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Protestant churches and Catholic dioceses, Orthodox congregations, high schools, colleges, and a host of civic organizations from across the country brought contingents by car, bus, and plane: Portland, Maine; Evansville, Indiana; Fort Worth, Texas—even a large group from Ireland crossed the pond to participate. Joining in spirit was Pope Benedict XVI, who tweeted his support.

And it’s not an old crowd. Given the number of high school and college students in attendance, the median age likely hovers around 30—if it is that high. A 2012 Gallup poll showed that 50 percent of Americans self-identify as “pro-life,” while only 41 percent self-identify as “pro-choice.” But more to the point, Gallup also noted (in 2010) that “Americans aged 18 to 29 are trending more anti-abortion.” While 18-to-29-year-olds were most likely to support legal abortion “under any circumstances” in the first years after Roe v. Wade, they are now more likely than any other demographic group to believe it should be illegal “in all circumstances.”

That does not always make it easier for pro-life students on campus, as Ruben Verastegui, president of Northwest Vista College Students for Life, noted in his speech at the rally. “Sometimes it’s going to feel like you’re alone on campus as a pro-lifer,” he said. “But take a look around you right now.”

And around them pro-life students are finding not only camaraderie but support. The Pro-Life Field Program of Students for Life of America (SFLA) is working to help establish a pro-life group on every college campus in the U.S. SFLA reported 637 active pro-life campus groups as of May 2011, with groups in 48 states. That same year, the SFLA National Conference became the largest pro-life youth conference in the world. A strong pro-life presence on campus is particularly important, says SFLA, given that college-aged women (18-24) obtain 44 percent of all abortions.

Their work may be paying off. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the total number of abortions declined from 2000 to 2009, as did the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) and the abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births).

The revolution may not be televised, but pro-lifers are confident that it will happen nonetheless. “We are the chosen generation! We will abolish abortion, and we will change history!” said Verastegui. For the 500,000-plus pro-lifers who gathered in D.C., the March was an opportunity to bring a message of love and dignity to the nation’s representatives, chief among them a president who has done more to entrench abortion than any president in living memory. For the youngest marchers, it was a chance to show that the pro-life movement is not a niche cause or a fringe crusade; rather, it is a view of human life gaining traction with an entire generation of Americans.

Shortly after starting to march, a small group of young men began to sing the refrain of “God of this City,” a praise song by Christian musician Chris Tomlin: Greater things have yet to come / Greater things are still to be done in this City, they sang.

Indeed.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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If another Ambrose Bierce comes along to update The Devil’s Dictionary, “national conversation” ought to have an entry.

We are constantly receiving invitations to the “national conversation”—about abortion, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, trans fats. It sounds nice: Every red, white, and blue-blooded American tucks in at the table for a calm, measured discussion in which everyone’s views are heard, and at the end we come to a conclusive plan of action that makes everyone happy. Or at least dissatisfies everyone equally.

It is an agreeably democratic canard, giving the hoi polloi the impression that it has some input in what happens, and giving those who say it the all-important sheen of open-mindedness.

Neither is true, of course, but the phrase coats predetermined positions in a sparkling patina of reasonableness. It’s no surprise, then, that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s recently called for a “national conversation” on gun control in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown.

But of course, America can’t have “national conversations.” We’re too many, too scattered. That is why the Founders created a republic. Our representatives have the conversation for us, in a venue where every voice can, in fact, be heard.

And tragedies make especially bad occasions for a “national conversation.” An entire country’s blood is up, clamoring for justice and answers, suddenly willing to go to every extreme to prevent future bloodshed. It’s a pity—but not a surprise—that days after the events in Newtown acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates tweeted, “If sizable numbers of NRA members become gun-victims themselves, maybe hope for legislation of firearms?” She was only one of many whose responses ranged from foolish to downright vicious. But we expect some emotional instability in the aftermath of such an event. Which is precisely why it’s a bad time to make policy.

Moreover, a month after the tragedy in Newtown, the news cycle has moved on—to the fiscal cliff, the debt crisis, the president’s Cabinet nominations—and whatever conversation remains is happening among Joe Biden and a small committee of Congressmen behind closed doors somewhere on Capitol Hill. If it is happening at all. With political careers, massive amounts of money, and influence at stake, Capitol Hill is all too often where genuine debate goes to die.

Is there any alternative? The attempt to mask political objectives—in Pelosi’s case, strong national gun control legislation—in openness to bipartisan conversation ought to serve as a reminder that our most difficult, impassioned conversations can only happen with any true intellectual seriousness in a place that takes intellectual seriousness seriously. For a great deal of Western history, that was the university.

Unfortunately, that is rarely the case anymore. Four days after the shooting in Newtown, 160 college and university presidents signed an “open letter to our nation’s policy leaders” calling for “rational gun safety measures” and opposing any legislation that would permit gun possession on college campuses.

Too often the denizens of the modern academy forget the advice of French essayist Joseph Joubert, that “it is better to raise a question without deciding it than to decide a question without raising it.”

And the tragedy at Newtown—and our reactions—raises large and important questions. But intellectual flippancy leads to conclusions like Vice President Biden’s, who recently declared, “If your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking.” That sort of tortured logic makes for sentimental appeal but for absurd policy. Gun control legislation is not just a matter of saving lives (if it will do even that is a point of contention); it requires a careful evaluation of the meaning of the Second Amendment and of the relationship of the federal government to the individual. Questions about mental health require the same cautious thought: At what point does a person’s individual freedom need to become subject to the state’s regulation?

Grappling honestly and seriously with such questions has, historically, been the province of the university, where a dedication to truth and clarity has been more important than political advocacy. That is much more difficult on campuses where political agenda and classroom curriculum have become indistinguishable.

In modern America, the moments that call for long, careful attention to large questions are those in which the intellectual poverty of a great portion of the cloistered policymaking class becomes most acutely apparent. But wise policymaking demands such studied reflection.

The university, in its classic, pre-politicized incarnation, can serve as the place for that task—for the deep and thoughtful consideration of complex and challenging questions. And if the resulting judicious university culture can maintain its integrity, it can become a check on overhasty action and an alternative to our empty rhetorical niceties. It can be—again—the place of real conversation.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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Until the improbable rise of Elizabeth Warren, he was America’s most famous fake Native American—and, like Massachusetts’ newest senator, a “diversity hire” at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

There he taught “ethnic studies” for nearly two decades, from 1990 to 2007, turning his podium into a bully pulpit for an assortment of vogue leftwing causes.

But it was when he referred to the “technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire”—that is, the several thousand workers in the World Trade Center—as “little Eichmanns” who deserved death on September 11 (for their participation in “power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated … into the starved and rotting of flesh of infants” abroad) that he called down upon himself the opprobrium of an entire nation and demonstrated—if any doubt remained—that some of the stupidest people around have advanced degrees.

In a more just world, Ward Churchill would have been tossed from the academy for sheer silliness. In 21st-century America, it took a faculty committee, the university’s Board of Regents, and eventually the Colorado Supreme Court. In September 2012, the state’s highest court finally decided that the Regents were within their rights to fire the professor unanimously found guilty by a committee of colleagues of “multiple acts of plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification.” And to think: the faculty committee only wanted him suspended.

In December, Churchill appealed his case to the Supreme Court.

Call him Lie-a-watha. With more than a dozen books and several articles to his name, not to mention a cushy tenured job secured after just one year as an associate professor (he somehow skipped the usual six-year probationary period), Ward Churchill managed to spend years on the dole of a major public university, where, drawing on a background in radical politics and a knack for tall tales (mainly about himself), he became a leading “Native American” voice in academia.

When, the day after his termination, Churchill filed suit in state court against his former employer, he began what must be, to-date, the century’s most specious claim of academic “repression.” But with titles like Marxism and Native Americans to his name, he rallied a colorful—if predictable—group of supporters: Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, two other professors whose fame outstrips their accomplishments, declared their support for Churchill, as did the ACLU, unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist-cum-academic Bill Ayers, and convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal (who issued not one but two statements of support). Their testimonials are available at the website of the “Ward Churchill Solidarity Network.”

But if Churchill managed to turn his case into a cri de coeur for professors’ First Amendment rights, hoisting “academic freedom” like an oriflamme, it was only a matter of time until he was forced into retreat. Even in Churchill’s pseudo-discipline, professors are expected to write their own politically correct hokum—but he could not manage even that standard.

Yet it should have come as little surprise. Besides the never-proved claims of Creek and Cherokee ancestry, in the résumé submitted to the University of Colorado in 1980 Churchill claimed that, while in Vietnam, he “wrote and edited the battalion newsletter and wrote news releases.” Seven years later, he told the Denver Post that he had attended paratrooper school, been part of an elite Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol in Vietnam, and run “point” in a combat unit. U.S. Army records support none of these claims. Churchill was trained as a film projectionist and light truck driver.

But his radicalism is no yarn. In the same 1987 interview, Churchill claimed he hung around the offices of Chicago’s Students for a Democratic Society, befriended Black Panthers, and taught members of the Weather Underground how to make bombs. True or not, he was a star guest at the 2009 trial of Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom, two members of the Black Liberation Army accused of killing San Francisco Police Sergeant John Young in 1971 and suspected of involvement in several other terror attacks on police in the 1970s.

And yet, despite hugs from Lynne Stewart (convicted of aiding terrorism) and face-time in the documentary When They Came for Ward Churchill—as if CU Boulder’s then-president Hank Brown came in brown shirt and jackboots—Churchill’s legal road is likely at an end, and he is quickly fading from memory.

The essay in which his inflammatory 9/11 remarks appeared, “ ‘Some People Push Back’: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” is now available at sites like Kersplebedeb.com, which advertises itself as “a one-person project devoted to producing and distributing radical books and pamphlets and agit prop [sic] materials”; it hosts links to “anti-police” and “queer revolt” material. Churchill is rapidly becoming a footnote in monographs of September 11 analysis.

But, unfortunately, Churchill is only one example of the faux-intellectualism that has come to define the university dominated by niche “studies”: ethnic studies, black studies, LGBTQ studies. You name it, there’s an aggrieved Ph.D. teaching it—or at least pointing out the systematic persecution perpetrated by white/male/heterosexual/colonial/capitalistic norms.

Still, if it is no longer possible to boot a professor who spends class time justifying the Oklahoma City bombing and whose published work likens the American treatment of Native Americans to the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, Ward Churchill’s moment in the national limelight was a much-needed reminder that, in too many places, the professors are off the reservation.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

IMAGE: Steve Rhodes

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