Professor Kirstein Responds to David Horowitz Book: The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America

In the introduction on p. xxiii I am included in a category of professors who were allegedly promoted in rank “far beyond [their] academic achievement.” They proffer no specific evidence for such a serious accusation. Usually the evaluation of a professor is conducted by a department, a rank and tenure committee and, of course, the appropriate administrative officials such as a provost and president. Obviously different institutions have different standards for tenure and promotion. How non-academics can arrogate to themselves the wisdom and the knowledge to evaluate the credentials of professors at institutions far removed from their sphere of activity is puzzling? While there are frequently external evaluators who may have carefully perused the dossier and portfolio of an instructor, I suspect such was not the case and that the criticisms of several professors in this matter are inferential and gratuitous. For what it is worth, I have published a monograph, numerous articles in refereed journals, reviewed for the American Historical Review, served as department chair and was the recipient of the teaching excellence award at my university. I am proud of my academic achievements recognising I can improve and seek even greater productivity.

On pp. 245-249 there is an extensive treatment of my activities, in one of the longer profiles in the book, which appears to be essentially the same as a website description contained within It was basically cut and pasted from their website without much updating. It contains one glaring error and omission. I never called Cadet Robert Kurpiel a “baby-killer” and notified them months ago when such a charge appeared on the internet. My e-mail referred to “you and your aggressive baby-killing tactics of collateral damage.” Even though I e-mailed them, they persist in their distortion of what I said in an internationally circulated e-mail. I do believe that our tactics kill babies, that “collateral damage” is a repulsive term in which the tragic death of innocents is obscured by dispassionate Pentagonese and that we bear the shame and opprobrium of mass murder and the killing of innocents.

While much of the biography abourt me is accurate and many of my quotations are rendered in a contextual manner that is appropriate, I noted with considerable interest that their coverage of my well-publicised academic freedom case does not mention my suspension, reprimand and website censorship. I was told by the V.P.A.A. that nothing would be allowed on my website without his approval. Since the book claims to be a clarion call for academic freedom and the protector of supposed legions of conservative students who are denied it, I find it inconsistent that when it is violated in the case of a progressive professor, it is conveniently ignored. Intellectual honesty would require that the book be impartial and when the left is persecuted by the right, then say so. Note that not one word of my many sanctions are mentioned. This could be the only extensive treatment of my case that does not contain any reference to the academic freedom implications or the significance of sanctions intended to silence my antiwar views and extramural utterances.

I noted in another professor’s profile that there are charges of sexual harassment that seems to be anecdotal and not borne out by evidence of a hearing or a finding of fact. Mr Horowitz may engage in this kind of criticism but, perhaps, his efforts to cleanse and purify higher education of intellectual bias and extremism might be more effective if he were more careful with his accusations and less vociferous in his denunciation of ideological opponents of his worldview. I have said for two years, notwithstanding my profile in his new book, Mr Horowitz has given me ample opportunity to respond to him with e-mail and participate in relevant discussions for Frontpagemag. He also published critical commentary concerning my suspension. Yet I believe his latest effort could have been more thorough and comprehensive in its portrayal of my activities.

I strongly agree with one of Mr Horowitz’s statements in the introduction:

“Every individual, whether conservative or liberal, has a perspective and therefore a bias. Professors have every right to interpret the subjects they teach according to their individual points of view.” (xxvi)

Yet the book profiles and critiques only progressive academicians and its purported support of academic freedom appears less than comprehensive due to its robust denunciation and public vilification of professors for activites far removed from the classroom. Group association with Historians Against the War, publications, activist involvement and extramural utterances, that may be radical or societally engaged, fall explicitly under the purview of academic freedom. Yet they are the main substance of criticism in the book’s effort to castigate socially conscious and idealistic professors as “dangerous” and disloyal.
The University of Dayton is a Jesuit institution and was improperly categorised as non-Catholic on p. 377.

Holy Cross College should be College of the Holy Cross. p. 253.

Howard Zinn is not in his seventies but in his eighties. (p. 360) I can’t wait to hear him speak next week at the University of Texas. I have not seen this great man since he served as both my advisor and instructor at Boston University.

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