Monday, March 26, 2007

No Friend of UF

Is there anyone more petty or childish than the self-important Brahmins who staff university faculties? The University of Florida has taken the unprecedented step of denying an honorary degree to one of the finest governors the state of Florida has ever had. We are left to guess at the reasons, but we're going to assume, while we speculate, that those reasons have little if anything to do with the ostensive rationalizations offered by committee spokespersons:

University of Florida President Bernie Machen said Friday he was "tremendously disappointed" with the school's Faculty Senate vote to deny former Gov. Jeb Bush an honorary degree.

The Senate voted 38-28 Thursday against giving the honorary degree to Bush, who left office in January.

"Jeb Bush has been a great friend of the University of Florida," said Machen, adding that the Senate's action is "unheard of."

Some faculty expressed concern about Bush's record in higher education.

"I really don't feel this is a person who has been a supporter of UF," Kathleen Price, associate dean of library and technology at the school's Levin College of Law, told The Gainesville Sun after the vote.

Bush's approval of three new medical schools during his tenure has diluted resources, Price told the newspaper.

Bush has also been criticized for his "One Florida" proposal, an initiative that ended race-based admissions programs at state universities.

Machen maintains, however, that Bush has benefited the university, such as by providing the funding to attract nationally recognized faculty.

Machen also pointed to Bush's First Generation Scholarship program, modeled after a University of Florida effort to help high school students at risk of not making it to college.

University officials said they could not recall any precedent for the Senate rejecting the nominees put forth by the Faculty Senate's Honorary Degrees, Distinguished Alumnus Awards and Memorials Committee. The committee determines whether nominees deserve consideration according to standards that include "eminent distinction in scholarship or high distinction in public service."

"The committee endorsed him," Machen said. "It is unheard of that a faculty committee would look at candidates, make recommendations and then (those candidates) be overturned by the Senate."

Any of our readers who think that maybe Bush was denied this honor not because he was "not a friend of UF" but rather because he is a Republican named Bush should just be ashamed of themselves for thinking that.


Intellectual Diversity at Indoctrinate U.

How do Darwinian professors show their students that Intelligent Design is bad science? They demand that ID presentations on campus be shut down. If students don't hear the arguments, their profs evidently believe, then they won't find them persuasive.

Free speech in the marketplace of ideas is okay for Marxists and Vagina Monologuers, but when students start holding conferences that seek to inform people about current controversies in the philosophy of science, well, that's just going too far, at least at Southern Methodist University:

Science professors upset about a presentation on "Intelligent Design" fired blistering letters to the administration, asking that the event be shut down. The "Darwin vs. Design" conference, co-sponsored by the SMU law school's Christian Legal Society, will say that a designer with the power to shape the cosmos is the best explanation for aspects of life and the universe. The event is produced by the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based organization that says it has scientific evidence for its claims.

The anthropology department at SMU begged to differ:

"These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits," said the letter sent to administrators by the department. "They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask."

Similar letters were sent by the biology and geology departments.

The university is not going to cancel the event, interim provost Tom Tunks said Friday. The official response is a statement that the event to be held in McFarlin Auditorium April 13-14 is not endorsed by the school:

"Although SMU makes its facilities available as a community service, and in support of the free marketplace of ideas, providing facilities for those programs does not imply SMU's endorsement of the presenters' views," the statement said.

Many SMU science professors say they are worried that merely allowing "Darwin vs. Design" on campus could give the public impression that Intelligent Design has support from scientists at the school.

The collision started last year, when law student Sarah Levy learned that the Discovery Institute wanted to hold a series of "Darwin vs. Design" conferences, including one in Dallas. Ms. Levy is president of the SMU chapter of the Christian Legal Society, which has about 100 members. SMU requires outside groups to have an official university organization as co-sponsor for any event to be held on campus.

"It is a very pertinent topic of debate right now and one that has some legal controversy around it," Ms. Levy said. "So it seemed that it was an appropriate event for the legal society to sponsor."

The two-day event will feature well-known supporters of Intelligent Design. Dr. Michael Behe is author of the book Darwin's Black Box and was a key witness in 2005 at a federal trial that produced a ruling that Intelligent Design was religion rather than science.

While some who are leading the protest acknowledge the need for free speech and academic freedom, they say this event doesn't qualify.

"This is propaganda," said Dr. John Ubelaker, former chairman of the biology department. "Using the campus for propaganda does not fit into anybody's scheme of intellectual discussion."

Other biologists compared the conference to a presentation by Holocaust deniers. Would the university allow that to happen?

"Propaganda"? "Holocaust deniers"? What's next, IDers portrayed as Nazis? People have to be very insecure in their convictions to resort to such desperate tactics to try to prevent the other side from being heard.

Physics professor Randy Scalise regularly teaches a class that is called "The Scientific Method," but is generally referred to as "debunking pseudoscience." He's told his students to attend the conference - but he said he's preparing them with material to put it into a scientific context.

But he wishes the conference wasn't happening.

"I think that by having them on campus, we are giving them legitimacy," he said.

In other words, the other side must not be allowed to speak lest someone, somewhere realize that there is an intellectually compelling alternative to Darwinian materialism. The pretense of illegitimacy must be maintained so that students not be tempted to think for themselves.

SMU: Branch campus of Indoctrinate U.