Brian Leiter, a law school professor here and my partner in crime in finding Kalven Report violations, is touting Kalven’s Principle of institutional neutrality in this new letter from the Chronicles of Higher Education. Click to go to the site, but I’ve reproduced the letter below. As instantiated several times this week, college administrators who try to make political or ideological statements not only chill speech by doing that, but also get themselves in trouble if they don’t phrase their ideological pronouncements exactly right. The several convoluted and controversial statements made by administrators trying to be on the right side of history just demonstrate more than ever why every college and university in America should adopt Kalven. (Only three have done so.)
As usual, Brian doesn’t pull any punches. It’s worth following his website, Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog.
To the Editor:
I find it baffling that anyone would want to hear from a college president or senior administrator about any domestic or international issue (“Here’s What Colleges Are, and Aren’t, Saying About the Israel-Hamas War,” The Chronicle, October 10). Administrators should be seen and not heard, unless they are speaking about college business. That is one of the ways in which the Kalven Report proposes to secure a wide open space for members of the college community to express their views, without fear that they are running afoul of institutional orthodoxy.
You again quote Brian Rosenberg, a visiting professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education and president emeritus of Macalester College, who claims that, “You cannot escape politics.” This statement doesn’t become less idiotic the more times it is quoted. If a college president remains silent about a political controversy and focuses on administering his or her college and its core functions of teaching and research, then he or she has indeed “escaped politics” in the only sense that matters in this context. If, instead, the president uses the bully pulpit to pontificate about politics, then he or she has injected politics and the pall of orthodoxy into the institution. That is exactly what the Kalven Report wants to avoid.
Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence
Director, Center for Law, Philosophy & Human Values
University of Chicago