FIRE and Alan Charles Kors in ‘Philadelphia Magazine’

By September 19, 2008

FIRE Co-founder Alan Charles Kors is mentioned in the September issue of Philadelphia Magazine. In the "Off the Cuff" editorial section, author D. Herbert Lipson discusses the atmosphere of the modern-day university in an interview with Kors. Lipson asks Kors about the role political ideology plays in academia, particularly with regards to hiring faculty:

"[T]he situation," Dr. Kors believes, "has grown worse. I think there is increasingly, without us being aware of how dramatic it is, a political litmus test in hiring in the social sciences and humanities." Part of what makes this problem so dangerous, as Dr. Kors sees it, is its insidiousness. His description"a soft tyranny of groupthink, of unconscious bias, and a self-inflated sense of mission to demystify the world for students"sounds positively Kafkaesque. It boils down to professors seeing their role not as helping students learn to think more deeply and clearly, but as telling them what to think.

Whether it is liberal, conservative, or any other kind of "groupthink" that interferes with individual rights, FIRE is here to defend freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. And, as Torch readers are well aware, FIRE does so on a daily basis. As our mission states, FIRE is dedicated not only to protecting and promoting the rights of students and faculty members whose rights have been infringed, but also to changing the culture of colleges and universities by persuading them of the central importance of individual rights in a modern liberal education.

In the fall issue of The FIRE Quarterly, FIRE’s other co-founder, Harvey Silverglate, elaborates on this point:

We wonder how and when are we going to actually change these administrators’ (and all too many faculty members’) mindsthereby changing the culture. The short answer is that we need to effect a radical transformation of the way college administrators see their roles. Are they there to micro-manage student life in order to produce their version of the good and decent society, where no one will "offend" anyone else and where members of "historically disadvantaged groups" will feel "empowered"? Do they hold their positions in order to keep campus life quiet and uneventful, thereby avoiding the "bad" publicity that often accompanies hotly contested issues and differences of opinion and lifestyle? Or are they there to provide an environment where students and faculty alike are able to engage in the often messy undertaking of making sense of an unruly world and plumbing the mysteries of life and truth?

To learn more about FIRE’s efforts to change the culture by holding up a high standard of free and open debate, read the full article in The FIRE Quarterly here.