In his Chronicle column, “Leather-Bound Books,” (1/26), David Kleban encourages campus liberals to reject their “position of powerlessness” and “recognize the upper hand they’ve been given.” Of course, since a lopsided majority of the Duke faculty and administration hold liberal political views, I find this exhortation to “recognize the upper hand” more than a little disturbing.
In his attack of the Duke Conservative Union (DCU), Kleban rages on about how conservatives should not try to “squelch the ideas they feel threatened by” and should cease their “Ignorant attacks on ‘radical’ speakers.”
This charge can only be perceived as a crude form of reverse psychology. Indeed, it is the overwhelming liberal majority in the administration and faculty that have ‘squelched’ conservative ideas.
Look at the vast number of courses which obsess over leftist activists and thinkers: Marcuse, Friedan, Sanger, and others. Celebrated statesmen and intellectuals from the Right, however, are consistently ignored. Do we see classes like “The Free Market and Hayek” or “Winning the Cold War” or “Rags to Riches: An Overview of American Greatness.” No, we do not.
Droves of liberal speakers are invited to Duke every year, and University funds are used to cover their expenses. For the past five MLK Commemorations, we have experienced an unbroken string of radical leftist speakers. Some of these speakers have run for office on the Communist Party ticket while others have stood beside world leaders who torture and imprison their political opponents.
Mr. Kleban, just because Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ‘extremist’ in the disgraceful racial environment of the 1950s doesn’t mean he would be dancing Calypso with Castro today (like his companion Mr. Belafonte). I would argue that African-Americans who have risen to positions of prominence in American society, and have done so because of the gains in racial equality that King achieved, would be excellent choices for speakers. This is not to say that ‘activists’ of all political persuasions are not appreciated or necessary, but the monotonous selection of Marxist speakers has turned the event into a laughingstock.
And while the MLK Committee might have $45,000 to bring in one or two speakers who hate America, the DCU must use their shoe-string annual budget (in the ballpark of ~40-45 times less) to bring in speakers for an entire year.
Although Kleban may accuse the DCU of attempting to “shut…down” political discussion and “squelch” opposing ideas, reality is far different than his ravings suggest. In truth, the DCU’s campaign to shed light on Belafonte’s extremist views and racist comments was met with hostility and annoyance by campus liberals (like Kleban) who found it more expedient to whine about the DCU than to defend Belafonte “with intelligent discourse of their own.”
According to Kleban, conservatives at Duke are “on the defensive.” As with nearly every other claim he made, there could be nothing further from the truth.