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Avoid ‘Politicized’ Path in Swarthmore Presidential Search, Alum Says

Swarthmore’s board of managers should choose a new president who will “rededicate” the school “to the true mission of liberal education, which is to prepare students for the rights and responsibilities of freedom by furnishing and refining their minds,” alumnus Peter Berkowitz wrote in an open letter to the board in Real Clear Politics.

Judging by recent disturbing trends at the school – notably lack of due process for those accused of sexual assault and intolerance for a visiting scholar because of his views on marriage – the board should not give “inordinate weight to the assessment of today’s professors and administrators in judging Swarthmore’s current condition,” says Berkowitz, a Hoover Institution senior fellow and longtime activist for better college governance:

The contempt for due process of which Swarthmore is accused flows directly from entrenched theories about the pervasiveness of male oppression and female victimization. This dubious conventional wisdom manages to be insulting to both men and women. Nonetheless, it has become embedded in the enormous bureaucracies built in the last few decades on campuses and inside the U.S. Department of Education to deal with women’s issues.

In a recurring pattern during this time, elite colleges and universities convene kangaroo courts to adjudicate accusations of grave crimes that should properly be left to the police and government prosecutors. …

The college’s Aydelotte Foundation for the Advancement of the Liberal Arts hosted a conversation in February between Princeton professors Robert George (Swarthmore ’77), a renowned conservative public intellectual, and Cornel West, an eminent progressive public intellectual. …

A significant number of students opposed the conversation because of Professor George’s public criticism of same-sex marriage. One undergraduate captured the crux of the objection to bringing George to campus. “What really bothered me,” she said, “is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.” …

In May 2013, members of Mountain Justice, an environmentalist club at the school, took over an open Board of Managers meeting intended for the airing of opinions about whether Swarthmore’s $1.5 billion endowment should divest from companies that produce or transport fossil fuels.

As more than 100 students disrupted the meeting, seized control, and shouted down others, the moderator as well as President Chopp and Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun stood silently by.

Read the whole open letter here.

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IMAGE: Tolka Rover/Flickr

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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