Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fight the Power?

This seems a story worth following. Mike Adams - a criminology professor at UNC-Wilimington and regular columnist for conservative news&views site Townhall.com - is suing UNCW for discrimination.

Of course, I only get these stories filtered through his highly entertaining satire. Exposing the leftist bias in academia accounts for roughly 90% of his output (the other 10% being completely annoying Christian drivel - generally of the "Evolution is just a theory" anti-science stripe) - and he has no more favorite target than his home institution. In short - he's been a professional gadfly (one of the best, I might add) these past 5 years - and finally one of his columns took things a step too far. That would be this one - entitled "How to Bomb a Gay Bathhouse."

Of course, it's satire like all the rest. But the title alone is just a fraction of a toe over the line enough that the university administration will have seen their chance. He started by claiming they were libeling him, then he disappeared from Townhall for a couple of weeks - and today he comes back with this lawsuit. At the time of writing, the link in his column to the actual complaint filed is broken, so I can't be too sure about the contents - but the column indicates that it is a discrimination suit.

I'm gonna hafta come down against him on this one - much as, on the whole, I agree with his points about academia. The specific charge is apparently that he was passed over for promotion because he is a conservative christian rather than a liberal atheist, or some such. In short, that they are discriminating against him for his political beliefs. And let me just say that there is no doubt in my mind that something like that is going on, yeah. All the same - I would guess it probably has more to do with the bad light in which he's been painting UNCW in his columns all this time. I mean, in the business world it would just be common sense that if you go around maligning your own company in pubic, you'll be "overlooked" for promotion no matter how productive your actual on-the-clock work has been! Now, admittedly, UNCW is a government institution, and one of the points of tenure (which Dr. Adams already has) is supposed to be to free academics from concerns that their job will depend on which answers they get, which opinions they express, etc. And indeed, there is no shortage of leftists who abuse their tenure in exactly the same way - to denounce the very institutions that employ them. So I'm not going to try to argue that there's no double standard at work here - because there definitely is.

What concerns me is that conservatives are sinking to the leftists' level on this issue. It's the leftists, is it not, who have a penchant for running to the courts whining whenever things don't go their way? And aren't conservatives supposed to be the ones who complain, among other things, that there are too many frivolous lawsuits, that courts ought not to be legislating nor interfereing with private transactions, etc.? It's something of a dilemma, of course, because if we MUST have bad laws like the anti-discrimination laws, then they really should apply equally to everyone - i.e. not just "protected" groups. So I understand the motivation for filing the suit - you know, to even the playing field a bit. Still, I can't see that this turns out any other way than giving the courts exactly the kind of authority conservatives tend to say they shouldn't have. By filing this lawsuit, Dr. Adams is inviting the courts to meddle in private employment matters - extending, as it were, the invitation that the ACLU extended to them as long ago as the 1950s, only this time from the other side. And the more both sides of the debate resort to this tactic, the more ubiquitous it becomes.

I'm sorry, but you can't fight courts-as-fiat-legislators by encouraging them to do so, only on your behalf rather than the other guy's. So as much as I have enjoyed and agreed with many of Dr. Adams' columns in the past, I don't think I can take his side on this one. I suppose I should wish him well on his court date. After all, now that the die is cast, the erstwhile "good guys" might as well win, right?

Well, yes, but my heart's not in it. However the case comes out, it's a net negative. Even if Dr. Adams wins, all he will have succeeded in doing is inviting courts to oversee university promotion decisions - extending protections to a certain class of people based on their "political orientation" in the process. I wish he hadn't filed this suit. But I admit that watching some NC university system administrators take a beating in court is satisfying on its own merits! (One of the nice things about going to IU, in fact, is that this school is MUCH less political than almost any university in the North Carolina system. It's been a very nice break from all that!)

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