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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Bobo: Don't talk about Harvard's faults, no, no, no

Harvard professors shouldn't criticize the university in public, argues Lawrence Bobo, dean of social science, in the Crimson. Faculty should be sanctioned for unprofessional conduct, he writes, if their speech arouses "external interventions into University business."

Debate should be kept in house, Bobo thinks. "Sharply critical speech from faculty, prominent ones especially, can attract outside attention that directly impedes the University’s function." Among the "external actors" who shouldn't hear critical views are alumni and donors.

Bobo also wants to sanction professors who incite students to protest in ways that violate university rules, but it's hard to say what would or wouldn't be OK. (He really wants protesters to focus on non-University targets.)

Conor Friedersdorf names Bobo as the first violator of the Bobo rule, tweeting: "Harvard Dean Lawrence D. Bobo's op-ed has incited me, an external actor, to publicly lament the subset of Harvard leaders who neither understand nor support free speech. By his logic, I guess he needs to be sanctioned."

It is "sobering and depressing" that prominent professors "do not recognize the profound threat such a position poses to academic freedom and the truth-seeking function of a university, writes Jonathan H. Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy in Reason.

Bobo is not alone, he writes. "Regrettably, this is not the first time I have heard university administrators suggest that speech by faculty or other members of the university community should be curtailed if it might generate controversy, provoke a response, or otherwise reflect poorly on the university."

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JK Brown
JK Brown

Shades of a century ago when Percy Marks was run out of Brown after the publication of 'The Plastic Age' (1924), which ripped the bed sheets off the campus

The Plastic Age (1924) is a novel by Percy Marks that tells the story of Hugh Carver, a student at a fictional men's college called Sanford. With contents that covered or implied hazing, smoking, drinking, partying, and "petting," the book sold well enough to be the second best-selling novel of 1924. The book was, however, banned in Boston. The following year, it was adapted into a film of the same…



Now you know what it means when someone is a "team player" who excels in "collegiality." Otherwise known as an apparatchik.

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