John R. Searle, The Campus War, 1971.



Faculty politics in the crisis is a civil war of academic liberalism. The national crisis of liberalism brought about by the Vietnam War and the failure of liberal assumptions and methods to cope with national problems is mirrored on the campus in the fact that both sides of the conflict in the faculty tend to be dominated by men who would normally be described as liberals. This split among the faculty liberals derives in large measure from the failure of the liberal dramatic categories to assimilate and survive the onslaught of student revolts. Those who abandon the categories as invalid are likely to turn against the radical students and support the administration; those who cling to the categories, come what may, side with "the students" against the administration. This breakdown of academic liberalism is a fascinating [123] cultural crisis in its own right, but for our present purposes it derives much of its interest from the following: the balance of power in the campus war is held by the faculty. If the faculty supports the administration, the radicals will lose; if they support the radicals, the administration, at least in the short run cannot win.

The topics that will occupy us in this chapter will center then around these problems: the liberal mode of sensibility and its weaknesses; the political and other alignments in the faculty; the mechanisms by which the faculty undermines the administration. Let us begin by asking, naively:


To begin, one must note that there is much less faculty support for student radicalism than there was a few years ago. Indeed the most important strategic development in the faculty in the late 60's was a growing unwillingness to withdraw their support from the administration in the face of strident, emotional, and morally absolutist student demands.

In the mid-60's if you were a typical liberal faculty member and you heard that somewhere, whether in a distant part of the country or on your own campus, a group of students was staging a sit-in against the local administration for some cause or other, you were, quite naturally and without knowing any more about it, in favor of "the students," just as in the Southern lunch counter sit-ins you were in favor of "the Negroes" (remember them?). But by the late 1960's, on campuses that had had substantial experience of student revolts, there was much less naivete on the part of faculty members about the [124] nature of the crises. The standard rhetoric of the mid-60's went something like this: "While we oppose the methods and tactics of the demonstrators, and while of course we deplore the use of force and violence on our campus, still it must be remembered that these young people are trying to tell us something, they are trying to build a better world, the justice of their cause cannot be denied, etc." In short, as Joe McCarthy's supporters used to say, "We oppose the means but applaud the ends" -- and as soon as the means employed by the administration include the use of police, the faculty forgets all about any objections they may have had to the means used by student radicals.

By the late 60's this rhetoric had grown a little tired, and, except for a few campuses such as Harvard where the level of faculty innocence remained high, there was much less willingness to destroy the authority of the administration for the sake of a particularized sacred issue. A grimmer rhetorical climate set in: "We may not like this administration much, but it is a helluva lot better than anything the trustees would replace it with if it went down." In general this shift in attitude occurred on campuses which had actually had substantial experience of student unrest. The Berkeley faculty, for example, responded quite differently to the People's Park crisis of 1969 than to the Free Speech Movement of 1964. The dramatic categories had slowly but perceptibly shifted in favor of authority.

But the gradual shift only forces one's attention more sharply on the underlying question: Why have sizable numbers of faculty members supported student radicals in conflicts with university administrations? Here are the faculty -- tweedy middle-class scholars locked into the careerism and economic security of academia; here is the administration -- people like themselves, friends and colleagues, or so it would seem; finally, here are the student [125] radicals -- as fanatical and unscholarly as a bunch of worked-up revivalists. How is it possible for so many nonradical faculty members to support radical students?

It would be tempting to say that professors support the radicals when and if they think the radicals are right. From the individual's internal point of view, that is indeed the largest single part of the answer. In my own case, for example, I supported the FSM and fought against the People's Park. I did so because on the first issue I agreed with the principles and underlying philosophy of the movement -- essentially the First Amendment conception of free speech as extended to college campuses -- and on the second issue I both opposed the detailed program -- appropriation of university land for a community park -- and thought the underlying rhetoric -- human rights before property rights -- was a complete sham.

All of the various studies of faculty opinions that I have seen show, not surprisingly, that the attitudes of most faculty members on the Sacred Topics differ only in intensity and on questions of methods from those of the student left. Faculty attitudes on political and social questions tend to be to the left of the population generally, in Britain and France, as well as in the U.S. There is considerable variation from one academic subject matter to another; the humanities and the social sciences tend to be the most left wing, and, reading from left to right, come next the biological sciences, physical sciences, and the professional schools. Furthermore, the better the university, the more liberal the political composition of its faculty.

When the crisis comes, the faculty is therefore likely to be predisposed to agree with the student radicals on the merits of the issues. Often faculty members feel a little guilty that they have not done more about the Sacred Topic in question; it seems to many that the least they can do is support these young people who are giving so [126] much of their time and energy to trying to make a better world. So the first part of our answer to the question why the faculty supports the student radicals is that they are in agreement on the major issues.

Why isn't that enough of an answer? Well, partly because in very many cases the support that the faculty has been willing to give the militants exceeds their actual agreement, not only on methods but on goals as well. At the time of the Berkeley faculty resolution of the Free Speech Movement in 1964, for example, it was possible to believe that the faculty, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the platform of the FSM, really believed in the resolution. Subsequent events, however, lead me to think that many of the people who voted with us really did not agree with us. How is one to explain their vote? Furthermore, though several faculties have shown a willingness to support the radicals when they agreed with them, they have not shown a corresponding willingness to attack the radical students when they did not agree with them, as was frequently the case. If they support the ends but oppose the means, why is the public support of the ends not accompanied by public opposition to the means? Also, even if they agree with the student radicals on the Sacred Topics, why do they go along with attacks on the university as a means of dealing with the problems? This feature is the most puzzling of all: granted that the faculty members oppose the war in Vietnam, racism, poverty, pollution, etc., why do they accept or seem to accept the particularizations of these issues onto local campuses? Why all the fuss about the Columbia gym or the Harvard extracurricular ROTC when these are at best only remotely related to the Sacred Topic and when most of the students' energy is not directed to the Sacred Topic but to damaging the university? Why, in short, do so many [127] professional scholars behave in ways that seem irrational, unintelligent, and imprudent?

There are several explanations for these curious phenomena. First and most obvious, professors as professional thinkers have been upset and in many cases unhinged by the various social crises of the 60's, especially the war. At times of general social malaise, professors, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are more psychologically vulnerable than other professional groups. This was strikingly evident after the Cambodia-Kent-Jackson events, when academia, professors and all, suffered a kind of national nervous breakdown.

Second, many professors are suspectible to student pressures. The "locals" are more susceptible than the "cosmopolitans" -- to use Merton's jargon1 because for the locals the students are really their only constituency. Unlike the cosmopolitans, they have no clients except their students. They are therefore reluctant to do anything that would cast them in an adversary relationship with a noisy segment of the student body such as the radicals. Indeed, it is very difficult for anyone who thinks of himself as a "teacher" to be in an adversary stance toward what are regarded as "the students." Not many university teachers are prepared to run the risks of student hostility, if only because it would damage the pedagogical relationship. Furthermore, because of the various forms of pressure that radical groups have used against professors -- including forms of terrorism that have ranged all the way from the late-night anonymous phone calls and assassination threats to bombings and physical attacks -- it takes a good deal more courage today to oppose student radicals than it [128] does to oppose university administrations and trustees. Blackmail is both particular and general; many professors support radical positions not out of personal fears, but in the hope of bringing peace to the campus.

Third, there is guilt. I suspect that many of the cosmopolitans are reluctant to oppose radical student groups, because of some slight feelings of guilt about the extent to which they have neglected their teaching in favor of research over the years. Guilt also plays a role in the behavior of many liberal faculty members: guilt about the feebleness of their response to the McCarthyism of the 50's, guilt that they take so little action to implement their ideals, guilt that most of their lif e is devoted to more or less selfish ends.

And fourth, there are the more subtle but more pervasive and possibly more powerful pressures. As the radicals capture the rhetorical climate, it becomes the done thing to agree with them or at least to say that one agrees with them. The bien pensant jump on the bandwagon at pain of being despised on campus and being dropped from the guest lists of the faculty hostesses. What has happened on campuses by way of social pressure in the course of the various upheavals reminds one of Eugene Ionesco's play Rhinoceros, where, inexplicably and at an accelerating rate one character after another turns into a rhinoceros. Thus in Stage Three in a great and growing rush one professor after another has become a radical supporter. The pressure to adopt the tone of the day and to mouth the current orthodoxy is almost irresistible. As professors, like anyone else, prefer being liked and accepted by their colleagues to being hated and vilified, they succumb. Again, the Cambodian invasion provides an excellent example of instant rhetorical climate; an intelligent response to the invasion would have required all sorts of careful assessments, both empirical and moral, but at the time, [129] moral outrage seemed the only possible response.

All these explanations are related to and need to be supplemented by an examination -- all too brief -- of the special role of academic liberals.


I have repeatedly remarked that the political center of gravity in the faculty is that outlook usually described as "liberal." I must apologize again for using the term, both because of its vagueness and because it means something slightly different on university campuses from what it means in national politics, but most of all because the split among academic liberals has produced two distinct strands which, with some crudity, we can label pro-administration liberals, and anti-administration liberals. In this section I want, with the usual reservations about discussing ideal types, to probe some of the attitudes of the pure or anti-administration liberals.

Academic liberalism consists not only of a set of beliefs about public affairs; it includes also a set of deeply ingrained attitudes, so ingrained as to form an important part of an entire mode of sensibility, a set of categories for perceiving reality. One of the most striking features of this mode of sensibility is that it involves a chronic suspicion of and sometimes even hostility toward established authority. It is a priori very hard for those who have this mode of sensibility to accept that, in a conflict between entrenched, old-fashioned authority and the rebellious young, the authorities might be right and the rebels wrong.

This is true not only of young faculty members who still feel personal empathy with the rebels but also of middle-aged faculty liberals who have long been active [130] in community and university affairs. For most of the latter group, the personal paradigms of political activity are battling authoritarian and right-wing forces in favor of social justice, civil liberties, and civil rights. After years of fighting McCarthyism, working for the ACLU, and donating money to CORE and NAACP, it is very hard to think of having domestic enemies on the left. And indeed for this group it seems unthinkable to side with such symbolic enemies as Nixon, Agnew, Reagan, and Rafferty, whatever the sins of their youthful adversaries might be. After years of genteel suburban activism, their rhetorical guns are all solidly encased in concrete and pointed toward the right. Anything that provokes a salvo will send it in that direction.

Many liberal faculty members will tell you in private conversation that they find this or that aspect of the radical movement objectionable, immoral, or outrageous; but they will not attack it publicly. The rhetorical climate simply does not yet permit it (though the wind, to co-opt the Weatherman metaphor, is starting to blow in the other direction). I know several authors who write for the New York Review and other such vaguely leftist organs on the question of student unrest who will in the privacy of a luncheon conversation admit to the totalitarian and irrational aspects of the student left, but you will scrutinize their published work in vain for any serious criticism.

This liberal mistrust of authority produces a certain feebleness in the defense of other liberal values when they are challenged by anti-authority groups. The following pair of examples will illustrate the ambivalence about these values which stems from this feebleness.

When I was chairman of the Academic Freedom Committee of the Academic Senate of the University of California in 1969, the regents, through their attorneys, insisted that I submit to them the confidential files of the [131] committee. I naturally refused and announced that I would not turn over the files unless compelled to do so by the courts. The regents initially refused to go to court on the grounds that the files are their property anyway and they do not need a court order to inspect their own property. The faculty was marvelously loyal in its defense of my position. An emergency meeting of the faculty was called in which the regents were roundly condemned and the meeting voted almost unanimously to support me and the committee in our stand.

But now contrast this with an earlier incident. In 1966 when I was Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Student Affairs, a group of radical students stole and subsequently published some of my confidential files containing recommendations for policies on student government. In the subsequent furor I do not recall that a single faculty member, much less the entire Academic Senate or even one of its committees, raised a publicly audible voice on behalf of the principle of the confidentiality of university documents.

Exactly the same principle was challenged in each of the two cases -- the right to maintain the confidentiality of certain kinds of sensitive university records. Of course other issues were involved as well, yet one could not help being struck by the difference in the attitude of the liberal faculty when their principles were challenged by the authorities and when the very same principles were challenged by anti-authority groups. The dramatic category -- embattled state university faculty struggles for academic freedom against regents -- is large and robust; almost any action of the regents that can be fitted into it will be. The dramatic category -- faculty fights for academic freedom against left-wing students -- does not yet exist in the minds of most liberal faculty members. Such chronic suspicion of authority leads to an unwillingness to support [132] the administration in the early stages of a revolt and to a massive hostile reaction against the administration when it calls the police at the beginning of Stage Three.

A second feature of the academic liberal mode of sensibility, one which infects the academic profession generally, though liberals to an unusual extent, is that its possessors are not in the habit of considering the consequences of academic actions. The professors' most important actions as professors have few consequences of a practical or political kind. The basic actions of the faculty member, the core of his professional activity so to speak, lie in teaching students and conducting and publishing research. In each case he seeks to impart the truth or as nearly what is the truth as he can get according to professional standards of evidence and reason. In each case what matters is the quality of the content of his utterances, and not the consequences of the act of uttering them. He would regard it correctly as a violation of professional ethics if he made his utterances for the purpose of achieving some practical effects rather than for the purpose of communicating the truth. Not only does he not consider the consequences of his actions when making utterances but he would consider it somewhat immoral to do so.

When he goes to a meeting of the faculty to vote on some resolutions about a campus crisis, he takes this habit of mind to the meeting with him. When a resolution is proposed, he asks himself, "Do I agree with the resolution?" He then listens to the speeches pro and con, makes up his mind, and if he agrees with the resolution he votes yes, if not, he votes no. It is an engaging exercise in political innocence, and would be completely commendable if it were not so easily manipulable by those with more political sophistication. When faced with such a political situation, the intelligent person has to ask himself at least [133] three questions: not only, "Do I agree with the contents of the resolution?" but also "What are the consequences of our passing it?" and "Do I regard them as desirable?" A political situation is precisely one in which it is incumbent on one to consider the consequences of performing one's speech acts, as well as the content of the speech acts performed.

Consider how this works in actual cases. At the height of Stage Three, when the police are still on the campus, the stench of tear gas remains in the air, and everyone is aroused, an emergency meeting of the faculty is held. A group of left-wing professors, prepared in advance, will propose a resolution which, among other things, condemns the administration for calling the police. The average faculty member, "le professeur moyen sensuel," as it were, asks himself, as he should, "Do I think it was a good idea to call the police?" But he does not ask himself, as he should, "What are the long- and short-term consequences to ourselves, the administration, and the university in general of our publicly condemning the administration at this particular point in the history of the university?" and "Do I welcome those consequences?"

The proposers of the resolution know perfectly well what the consequences of its passage are; it will undermine and perhaps destroy the authority of the president. That indeed is one of the reasons why they proposed it. But their target group, the uncommitted faculty, is not being asked to fire the president, heaven forbid; they are merely being asked, as morally upright, honest men, dedicated to the search for truth, to express an opinion on a matter of deep concern to themselves and their students. And as it turns out, in all sincerity, and with all due regard to the feelings of their old friend the president, they simply cannot agree that it was a good idea to bring the police on the campus. So they pass the resolution. Everyone [134] goes away from the meeting satisfied. The left-wing faculty are now the most powerful group on the campus, as the administration has been effectively wiped out. The rest of the faculty are satisfied that they acted courageously and honestly, expressing a candid opinion. But they often have no understanding of the political meaning of their actions and, after a few years of this kind of behavior and a few changes of administration, they are puzzled that things do not seem to be getting better on the campus. Because many liberal professors regard it as "Machiavellian," not quite upright, to consider the political consequences of their utterances, they are easily manipulated by radicals.

Jesse Unruh, the California legislator, says that the California faculties have an urge for self-destruction, that their behavior is suicidal. From the outside it must look that way, since they constantly appear to be doing things against their own interests. But I think they are not trying, consciously or unconsciously, to destroy themselves; their actions are explicable in terms of the factors I have mentioned. As liberals they find it very hard to support power and authority even when it is in their interest and in the interest of the values they cherish to do so. And they are by professional training reluctant and often unable to consider the consequences of their verbal actions. They are in a quite strict sense of the word irresponsible, since they do not assume responsibility for what happens after they have acted. As I pointed out in the l^st chapter they do not have official decision-making power on general questions of university governance. Their actions consist almost entirely of words. As scholars they are not trained to consider the consequences of words, and lacking power, they are not held responsible for the consequences of their actions.

Many of the faculty at San Francisco State College [135] were distressed at the appointment of S. I. Hayakawa as president, and even more distressed at his subsequent behavior. One has to point out to them that his appointment was in large part a consequence of their refusal to support either of his two predecessors, Summerskill and Smith. Both of these men were popular liberals who tried to govern the college in accordance with the principle of ultimate faculty consent that I described in the last chapter, but neither could get enough faculty support to enable him to maintain order on the campus in the face of radical student violence. Both were caught in the vise of demands by the trustees that they maintain peace and order on the campus and the faculty's refusal to give them the support necessary to do so. Like several other presidents they found themselves in the impossible position of having to rely on faculty support for their authority to govern, but unable to elicit that support in the crises. The almost inevitable consequence of this is to produce in the trustees a desire to appoint a president who will ignore the faculty; and in that sense Hayakawa is in part the creation of the liberal faculty of SF State. For Summerskill or Smith to survive, most of the faculty would have had to reason as follows: "We may not agree with the president's policy on this or that issue, but he is a good president and we will back him even when we disagree with a particular policy, because we recognize both the validity of his authority as president and the importance of supporting him in his efforts to defend the educational philosophy that we have in common." I hardly need tell the reader at this point that such sentiments are unthinkable among most liberal faculty members. They violate the principle of hostility to authority and involve a sense of prudential concern for the future which is seldom to be found among them.

Another interesting case is that of Clark Kerr at the University of California. The faculty, in particular the [136] Berkeley faculty, myself included, had been undermining his authority for over two years before the regents got around to firing him in 1967. We "condemned" his administration in the fall of 1964, we passed the famous December Eighth Resolution later that year, we gave him a very ambiguous vote of confidence when he threatened to resign in early 1965, and we opposed him on the transition to the quarter system, a policy on which he had staked a fair amount of his prestige. His efforts to pursue liberal policies earned him little support in the faculty, and increasing hostility form the board of regents. The amazing thing is not that he was fired but that he survived as long as he did; yet when the regents finally fired him many of the same faculty members who had fought him for years were amazed and outraged. Well, what did they suppose we were doing on December eighth and on half a dozen other occasions?

It is apparently universally believed that Kerr was fired in a political coup by Ronald Reagan, then newly installed as governor. A more accurate picture would be this: Kerr had been losing support in the board for months before Reagan's election. Insiders assumed he would have to go -- probably by resignation -- regardless of the outcome of the election. Several of the regents who wanted him out were reluctant to force the issue during an election campaign in which the university was under attack. Ironically Ronald Reagan's candidacy may have given Kerr several extra months in office. His tenure could have been even longer, as the regents did not plan to deal with that issue at Reagan's first regents' meeting; but Kerr, for reasons known best to himself, forced their hand by putting the issue of his continuance up to them. So they clarified the position by firing him. Basically his administration was destroyed by his inability to get continued support from conservative regents. An important factor in this loss of support was the hostility [137] of the Berkeley faculty, which increased the regents' conviction that he could not govern effectively. Given the dramatic categories then available, it was in everyone's interest to believe that Reagan was responsible for Kerr's dismissal. To the governor's constituency, he appeared to be "cleaning up the mess in the university"; President Kerr's liberal image was enhanced enormously by this conception of the firing; the nonpolitical regents evaded any publicly observable responsibility; and the same liberal faculty members who destroyed Kerr's authority could also enjoy the pleasures of moral outrage at his inevitable dismissal.

When it comes to conflicts between the radical students and the administration, many liberal faculty members believe that the administration should conduct a war of maneuver. Their ideal campus administrator is one who "avoids confrontation," who is constantly engaged in political and intellectual acrobatics to avoid direct clash with the radicals. For them the very existence of a conflict with attendant disorders on the campus is proof of administrative inadequacies. Since in the better universities such faculty members form a large section of the administration's primary constituency, many administrations are inclined to accept this definition of their task. Instead of fighting battles when the occasion arises and then regarding their success or failure in terms of victory or defeat in the struggle, they regard the very existence of a visible struggle as a form of defeat. It is obvious that this gives the radicals an enormous advantage from the start, since by picking a fight they have already won a form of victory. Until administrations can convey to their faculties that it is not the task of the administration to avoid conflict at all costs, but rather to work for the welfare of the university, fighting such battles along the way as are necessary for this objective, they will continue [138] to face their adversaries with great disadvantages.

In at least two related respects the attitude of many of the liberal faculty members is inconsistent to a point bordering on hypocrisy. First, as I have had occasion to remark earlier, administration mistakes are magnified out of all proportion and regarded as unforgivable, whereas even outrageous lies and misbehavior by radicals are either not perceived at all or "understood" and overlooked.

Second, while many liberals insist on "no compromise" when the administration is engaged in conflicts with the trustees or outside right-wing political forces, they are constantly urging compromises of principle when dealing with the radicals within. If the trustees try to interfere with free speech by banning a revolutionary speaker from the campus, they want the president to fight the trustees like a tiger. If the radicals interfere with free speech by refusing to allow a pro-Vietnam War speaker to speak by heckling him, jeering at him, and shouting him down, the same liberal faculty wants the president to show some understanding of the students' frustration; to be flexible, to recognize that these are sincere and idealistic young people, blinded perhaps by the passions of youth, but genuinely upset by what they perceive as an immoral war. If their position were consistent they would presumably have to accept the parallel agument about the trustees: that the president should show some understanding of the trustees' frustration, that he should be flexible, that he should recognize that these are sincere and idealistic old people, blinded perhaps by the feebleness of senility, but genuinely upset by what they perceive as an immoral revolutionary movement.

Arguments between the administration and the liberal faculty on questions of outside political interference with the university almost always have the same logical structure. [139] The administration argues: we must do so-and-so for the long-run best interests of the university; to which the faculty responds, usually with some justification, to do so-and-so violates our principles. One sees this form of argument over and over again. The faculty cannot forgive the administration for giving in on matters of principle in order to increase the probability that the university will benefit from the sacrifice in the long run. The administration cannot forgive the faculty for their insistence on their principles without any regard of the consequences. Technically speaking, the faculty are deontolo-gists, whereas the administrators are teleologists, usually act utilitarians. The faculty member asks, "Is it in accordance with my principles?" the administrator asks, "How does it affect the future of the university, will it work to our benefit in the long run?" Each attitude has its own endemic vice: the administrators are constantly tempted to identify the welfare of the university with the welfare of their own administration, and the question, "How does it affect the welfare of the university?" tends to be translated into, "How does it affect the welfare of my administration?" And the faculty's attitude, as pointed out earlier, has a built-in irresponsibility.

When the issue is not one of outside political attacks on the university, but of internal attacks from the student left, the position of the liberal faculty suddenly changes. No longer are they fighters for abstract principles, now they are arguing for compromise, are trying to play the role of mediators, and urging whatever sacrifices of principle are necessary to maintain peace on the campus and avoid confrontation. They are sometimes more effective in the short run in this stance -- having adopted the act utilitarian posture of administrators.

Underlying this inconsistency is a more basic attitude deeply embedded in the liberal faculty sensibility: if you [140] cannot bring the radicals somehow into the fold, if you cannot make them feel at home in and a cooperating part of the university, it must be because you lack the wisdom or the decency or the flexibility or the desire to do so. Are these not intelligent and idealistic young people who want nothing more than a decent chance to love their university and their country? Has not the Cox Commission and just about every other liberal investigative agency assured us that they are the best, finest, most i dewy-eyed idealists in our nation's history? Are they not protesting against the war, racism, poverty, and air pollution? And if they are tearing your university to pieces, doesn't that only go to show that you, the administration, are autocratic, inflexible, hypocritical, obsolete, and repressive? In short, it must be your fault.



This group, the largest single group within the faculty, has been badly split by the events in the universities in the past several years. By instinct they would prefer to be on the side of "the students" and not of the administration. The dramatic category of idealistic young people struggling against corrupt authority to build a better world is one they cherish. The trouble is that this category can't always bear the strain of the facts. What for example is the liberal faculty member to do in the face of arson, bombing, and violence generally? There are several standard gambits: first, it didn't really happen ("It has never been proved that the auditorium was destroyed by arson"); second, it did happen but it doesn't count ("Professor So-and-So's class was disrupted, but he is a special case"); third, it did happen and it does count, but the people who did it don't count ("The peace movement [141] has attracted a few hooligans"). Sometimes the liberal faculty member will go the whole hog and say "violence is unfortunately necessary for social change," in which case he ceases to be a "liberal" and becomes a "radical." But quite often he is reluctantly forced to admit that the campus authorities are not always wrong and "the students" are not always right.

The breakdown in the unity of academic liberalism -- such unity as there ever was -- came about in large measure because the categories could not bear the strain. This lead to a split, in many universities, bitter and hostile, between the "pro-administration" liberals who tend to see the radicals as a serious danger to their values, and the "anti-administration" liberals, who cling to the traditional categories and are allied with the student left on most campus issues. These two groups of liberals make up most of the leadership in the conflict within the faculty, and much of the bitterness of faculty politics is due to the fact that it has the characteristics of a civil war, liberal faculty against liberal faculty.

The anti-administration liberals are allied with the small but growing group of faculty radicals. This alliance makes up what is usually called the faculty left.


Both the radicalizing effects of the current social crises and the influx of young radical assistant professors from the graduate schools have produced a still small but growing subculture of faculty radicals. Presumably this growth will continue if only because more radical graduate students will eventually become radical professors. The ranks of the young radicals are augmented by the senior liberal professors who have become radicalized in middle age. Formerly they tended to be somewhere to the middle or left of the liberal road and were more dedicated to literary criticism or molecular [142] biology than to political activism. They had political sentiments but until recently most of them had engaged in little political activity. Often, in the sciences especially, a professor with no previous experience of political activism will suddenly surface to become terrifically active in campus politics for a year or two, only to disappear back into the lab, not to be seen again.

Nationally the young radicals have been most visible at the annual conventions of the professional associations: they announce that the association must denounce the Nixon Administration for some atrocity, usually the war in Vietnam. These meetings are then torn apart, not by the merits of the issue in question, much less by some professional issue, but by the question of whether the association should take a political stand. In these arguments the radicals are prone to pronouncing roundly that they are human beings first and psychologists or historians second, a scale of priorities which if anything tends to exaggerate their professional commitments.


This label is even more vague than the others, but I need it to mark those faculty members who are active in campus politics but whose interest derives more from a concern with internal campus matters than from the global ideological interests of the liberals and the radicals. The moderates make up the bulk of the routine faculty committee establishment. They lack ideological passions and are involved in campus politics more out of a concern for the welfare of the university than out of a desire to impose some philosophical ideal on it. They also lack a coherent philosophy of university governance or education, and this makes them often more susceptible to the pressures of the faculty left than are the pro-administration liberals. My observation has been -- I am not sure how universally valid it is -- that the "hardliners," [143] those who believe the administration should not compromise with the radical students, are more likely to be found among the pro-administration liberals than they are among the moderates.

In the crisis the moderates are usually allied with the pro-administration hberals, though sometimes a few moderates become so outraged by the calling of the police or by the excessive quantity of tear gas pervading the campus air that some of them will side with the left. The usual alliance between the pro-administration liberals and the moderates makes up what I shall reluctantly label the faculty right.


If we are using these terms in their national political sense, where "conservative" implies such things as the right wing of the Republican Party, the John Birch Society, etc., there are very few conservative activists and only a small percentage of conservatives at all in the better universities such as Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, Wisconsin, etc. Most of the professors who would be classed as conservative in national political terms are, culturally speaking, middle Americans who happen to be teaching in universities, instead of, say, managing businesses or carrying on law practices. They are more commonly found in the professional schools than in such disciplines as sociology or comparative literature. These middle Americans are not usually active in faculty politics. The whole thing seems to them a tiresome waste of time. In addition there is a handful of wildly outraged conservatives. Generally regarded as cranks, they have little influence in the faculty but are prone to making mischief by tattling to the trustees or to the right-wing press.

To understand the interaction of these two coalitions -- the "left" of radicals and anti-administration liberals [144] against the "right" of moderates and pro-administration liberals -- we have to distinguish between routine campus politics and crisis politics. Routine politics concerns such normal academic functions as the planning of next year's curriculum, the selection of deans and department chairmen, and all the various academic and administrative committee work dealing with matters ranging from landscape design to library fund allocations. Routine politics is generally controlled by the faculty moderates; it is dominated by an establishment of old-time faculty committeemen who have had years of experience in what Veblen called the "sifting sand" activities of most faculty committees. The importance of the distinction between routine politics and crisis politics lies in the fact that the moderate establishment dominating routine politics is usually unable to maintain control of the faculty in time of crisis; and new elements such as fiery young radicals, embittered old faculty liberals who have been hoping to ambush the trustees and the administration for years, chronic anti-establishmentarians, and outraged pro-administration liberals come to the fore. These new elements dominate the ad hoc groups and the mass faculty meetings that characterize a full-scale crisis. Losing their grip on the faculty government organizations, the moderates side with the pro-administration liberals as their most natural allies.

When the crisis comes, the rhetorical initiative lies with the left. This is almost true by definition because there would not be a crisis unless something had happened -- the president had called the police on the campus, or the federal government had invaded Cambodia, or what have you -- which created a crisis of authority and gave the left a club with which to beat the authorities. This means that the pro-administration forces are almost always in a [145] defensive stance. When the conflict comes, they almost never have the rhetorical initiative.

One sometimes sees faculty politics described in the categories of the politics of American society at large -- a conservative right and a liberal left competing for the votes of the mostly conservative silent majority. But if my analysis is right, this analogy with national politics breaks down at several points: instead of liberals and conservatives fighting for the votes of the silent majority and each seizing the rhetorical initiative as it comes along, we have a pro-administration camp, made up of liberals and moderates, an anti-administration camp, mostly liberals and radicals, with the antis holding the rhetorical initiative in the crunch. The moderates, because of their desire for compromise and the desire to avoid splitting the faculty, are very susceptible to making deals with the left that undercut the authority of the administration. These groups compete for the votes of a large lumpen professoriat of nonactivist faculty members, mostly liberal in outlook, who do not have the continuing interest in university politics (and there is no reason why they should) necessary to qualify as activists or really to understand what is going on, but who are periodically outraged by some action of the authorities. It is in these moments of outrage that the routine faculty establishment tends to lose its control of faculty politics to the new activist elements, especially to the left.


The arena in which the faculty usually expresses itself for good or ill in time of crisis is the mass faculty meeting. Many universities have representative faculty governments, [146] but in time of crisis even these campuses usually have large town meetings of the faculty, or of some large subset of the faculty such as the College of Letters and Science; and moral authority tends to ride with the mass meeting even where constitutional authority lies in a representative assembly. To the beginner, these mass meetings present an exciting spectacle. There are eloquent and passionate speeches by great and distinguished scholars. Those present are, after all, professional lecturers, and not a few of them are brilliant stylists at the rostrum. There are complicated and bewildering parliamentary hassles, with motions to amend amendments, points of order, and occasional mysterious requirements of two-thirds majorities. At such moments, the law professors occupy the spotlight, while the engineers and the foresters look on sullenly, suspicious that someone is trying to pull a fast one but unable to figure out what to do about it. There are enormous struggles over issues that are almost entirely symbolic. In these emotion-charged matters symbolism is sometimes everything, especially among groups that lack actual decision-making power. Most of all there is the tension of waiting to see what the final vote will be.

A mass meeting of the faculty, like any large meeting, has to be organized in advance or it is likely to degenerate into chaos. As there are usually no formal political party organizations among the crisis activists, the meetings are often rigged by ad hoc political groups or by such groups working out compromises with the regular faculty committee establishment and in some cases with the administration. Where there are regular left-wing faculty organizations, such as a faculty union, these usually play an important role in efforts to rig crisis meetings of the faculty. Incidentally, the membership of these leftist organizations usually skyrockets in time of crises, only to fizzle back almost to normal after the crisis is over. To say that these [147] meetings are rigged in advance is not to imply any cynicism on the part of the riggers or any chicanery in their behavior; on the contrary, the people involved are usually sincerely convinced that they are saving the university and selflessly fighting for some ultimate moral values.

A characteristic pattern is first to have a left-wing faculty caucus a day or two before the mass faculty meeting. This caucus meeting may be called by the local faculty union, the AAUP (rarely), antiwar groups, or informal committees of left-wing faculty, depending on the issues and on who seized the initiative. At a big university, attendance at these left-wing meetings may vary from a few dozen to several hundred. Such meetings are often noisy and passionate affairs with lots of applause for the more extreme points of view, much of it coming from left-wing students present. These meetings serve to assemble the faithful, to strengthen their resolve, and most importantly to pass a resolution which will become the basis for negotiation with the administration or the moderate faculty. Usually the resolution passes unanimously (or nearly so), and a delegation is selected to deal with the other side.

Next, the left-wing delegation will meet with the other side, which may be incarnated in some regular establishment faculty committee, members of the administration, or a group of prestigious and influential moderate faculty members. The purpose of this negotiating session is to prepare a resolution or set of resolutions to which both sides can agree and which will be presented to the mass meeting of the faculty. The striking thing about this second meeting -- it ought to surprise no one, but it still surprises me -- is the extent to which a small group of really determined left-wing faculty members who know exactly what they want and are prepared to seize the [148] rhetorical initiative and fight for what they want, can exert an influence wildly disproportionate either to their own numbers or the size of their constituency in the faculty. The moderates not only tend to be unclear and indecisive about what they want, but they are also anxious to avoid a fight. They don't like being in adversary relationships, and they would like to keep peace in the faculty family as long as they can. At these meetings everyone is anxious to avoid a "divided faculty."

Even the pro-administration liberals tend to be divided and indecisive; they don't like the police on the campus or the war in Vietnam any more than the left does, and they find it uncomfortable, in any case, to be playing a right-wing role. In general, at such meetings the left is excited and exhilarated. They are having enormous fun. The moderates and administration liberals are depressed. They want the whole thing to be over with as soon as possible. (I have, incidentally, been on both sides, each on many occasions.) Out of these meetings emerges, usually at the last minute, a resolution which is well to the left of the center of gravity of political sentiment in the faculty at large, but which is almost sure to pass in the mass meeting, because the pre-rigging will serve to neutralize opposition to it. If you can arrange for a left-wing motion to be introduced by a regular faculty establishment committee or supported by well-known moderate figures, it is difficult to beat.

If the pre-rigging has been carefully done, the actual faculty meeting will almost have a predetermined, ritual, or ceremonial character, where the outcome is seldom really in doubt. Sometimes even the major speakers and the order in which they speak will be decided in advance.

More interesting meetings occur when the advance arrangements have failed to produce an acceptable compromise, and an amendment to the main motion, or even [149] a rival motion, is introduced in a trial of strength. More interesting still, sometimes groups which were not in on the advance rigging will introduce motions from the floor. A fairly common device is to introduce an extreme left-wing motion which will be defeated followed by a not so extreme left-wing motion which will pass, yielding a left-wing victory which would not otherwise have been possible, and yet convincing those present of their moderation and common sense.

It seems to me possible to make certain rough generalizations about these meetings and their effects on the university. First, the results of a crisis faculty meeting tend to be about twenty degress to the left of the representative sentiment of the faculty. This stems, in part, as we have noticed, from the rhetorical initiative of the left and the willingness of the moderates, both in the pre-rigging and in the general meeting itself, to make compromises in order to avoid nasty conflict. Also, the rhetorical climate is not conducive to anti-left-wing views, and many of the things that could be said against the emerging orthodoxy are left unsaid as being somehow unacceptable and too outrageous. Furthermore, the mass meeting itself suffers from the usual phenomena of mob psychology. When assembled in close proximity in a mass meeting, professors, like anybody else, will applaud ideas, laugh out loud at jokes, and vote enthusiastically for proposals, which, if they read them in the solitary quiet of their studies would not provoke them to move a muscle. Finally, not everybody comes to these meetings, and those who stay away are more inclined to be moderate or right-wing than they are to be left-wing. An indirect piece of evidence for this first generalization is that the same faculties that vote for left-wing principles in mass meetings will usually in secret ballots elect moderate representatives to carry them out. It is relatively easy to get a [150] public left-wing vote on an issue, but very hard to elect a left-wing candidate.

Secondly, whatever the issues, faculty meetings usually generate far more hostility among various factions in the faculty than they do between the faculty and the non-faculty agencies that may have provoked the issues in the first place. One might suppose that professional scholars would be too civilized to allow matters of great principle to interfere with anything as important as personal relationships, but alas this is far from being the case. It is no exaggeration to say that those who are active in the struggle on the campus find that their political role and activities are more important for their standing in the community than their scholarly work. Formerly faculty bitchiness and hostility were largely features of intra-departmental life. Lately they have become also campus-wide and political. The reason for this is that one expects "higher standards" from one's faculty colleagues than from just about any other group anywhere (possibly excepting the local administration) and lapses from what one regards as correct behavior seem all the more unforgivable on the part of one's professional colleagues. Also, as I remarked earlier, the faculty struggle is largely a civil war among liberals, and it has the characteristic passions of a civil war in that the other side seems to consist not merely of adversaries but of traitors. How could they of all people vote against us on this issue?

The third generalization is the most depressing: the people with whom one is most sympathetic -- the mature, humane, liberal, cultured intellectuals -- have an influence over the years that is nothing short of disastrous. They are too high principled to engage in any long-term calculations or consideration of the consequences of their actions. They avoid "Machiavellianism" and attempt to do the right thing here and now. Convinced that the [151] administration is filled with crass bureaucrats, they attempt to rescue the university in its all too frequent times of need. But the net effect of their efforts is usually such that the whole place would have been better off if they had stuck to their books and left governance to the crass bureaucrats. The most important reason for this is that they are incapable of calculating long-term political consequences, and so with the best of intentions they undertake actions that undermine the system of authority within the university and invite reprisal from without.