Moral bankruptcy in higher education -- and the lack thereof
Every once in a while someone in a position of authority will stand up and say something that needs saying, and say it openly (none of this "a source at…" crap). The sad thing about this is that it's rare enough to be noteworthy.
Harvard President Lawrence Summers stood up and said some things that needed saying about anti-Semitism in the Western world, and I respect him for that. Often University presidents, like other heads of state, refrain from saying the things that need saying because of other concerns (political or not). His adamant denial that Harvard would divest itself of Israeli monetary concerns was worthy of applause, however shameful the need for it.
Someone else from Harvard has added their own voice to the mix, again in an open manner which invites debate and confrontation. Alan Dershowitz has written an opinion piece challenging Paul Hanson, a House Master at Harvard who signed the divestment petition. Dershowitz makes several important points regarding Israel's history of democracy and respect for human rights, among them praise for Israel's independent judiciary, its protections for freedom of speech, its refusal to use torture to extract information from suspects, and its multiple offers of statehood for the areas it has conquered. In a final masterstroke, he challenges Hanson to an open debate on the topic—a challenge Hanson has refused once already, citing "more important priorities". (Though what priorities could be more pressing to a Harvard professor than openly defending their ideological stance, a stance many people find objectionable and would doubtless like clarified, is hard to imagine. or perhaps not, given how defensible Hanson's stance is…)
When one side of an argument issues public invitations to openly debate the positions and the merits, and the other side has better things to do, I think it reflects rather important clues as to which side is both more intellectually honest, and more morally correct. Of course, Dershowitz says it better:
A House master who peremptorily signs a petition and then hides behind "other priorities" does not serve the interests of dialogue and education. I hope that Hanson will accept my challenge, and that if he does not, that I will be invited by his students to help fill the educational gap left by the cowardice of those who have signed this petition and refuse to defend their actions in public debate.