The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Not Yet the Bottom

There has been a lot of notice taken lately of Ward Churchill, who had built a successful career on fraud until he unwisely raised his profile. In particular, Paul Campos suggests:
Churchill thus represents the reductio ad absurdum of the contemporary university's willingness to subordinate all other values to affirmative action. When such a grotesque fraud - a white man pretending to be an Indian, an intellectual charlatan spewing polemical garbage festooned with phony footnotes, a shameless demagogue fabricating imaginary historical incidents to justify his pathological hatreds, an apparent plagiarist who steals and distorts the work of real scholars - manages to scam his way into a full professorship at what is still a serious research university, we know the practice of affirmative action has hit rock bottom. Or at least we can hope so.
Campos diagnoses the academy as a patient with a particular disease, a cancerous overemphasis on diversity; he focuses on curing this disease. But he is wrong; it is not simply the case that other values are being "subordinated" to affirmative action. It is more accurate to say that the other values have been laid aside. The patient is dead.