Sunlight is the best disinfectant, Justice Louis Brandeis said.
Which is why labor organizers and left-wing education officials using public tax dollars in government-funded colleges and universities are raging against the scrutiny from Mark Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation.
For years, Landmark has been filing public disclosure requests to shed light on how “labor centers” at institutions for higher learning are spending money on decidedly non-academic, explicitly political purposes.
The American Association of University Professors is up in arms. How dare a conservative foundation that pays homage to Ronald Reagan call on public universities to account!
In the last few years the Landmark Legal Foundation has lodged public records requests of and complaints in regard to labor education centers in at least eleven public universities and colleges, including Florida International University, Indiana University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, the Universities of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts-Amherst, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and the Evergreen State College. Thus far, to our knowledge the most serious complaints, which threaten academic freedom, appear to have taken place at UC Berkeley and Evergreen, where the foundation seeks to restrict the work of the centers, in terms of who they serve and what they do. At Berkeley, Landmark’s complaint alleged, among other charges, that the Labor Center provides services for private (union) benefit rather than for public benefit. At Evergreen, Landmark made a request for a state audit of the Labor Center, charging that this program “is in violation of Washington’s requirement that public funds must only be used for a valid public purpose.” The letter from Landmark went on to say that “Rather than a valid public purpose, the Center’s activities are designed to promote a particular political ideology.”
Inside Higher Ed also sounds the alarm with a piece decrying, “Organized Against Labor.”
One Washington college, Evergreen State College, had the audacity to comply with Landmark’s request — and issued an audit earlier this year that showed that the school’s labor center may have been spending public money aiding and abetting illegal immigration. The AAUP was irked and attempted to define open-borders activism as “academic freedom:”
It appears that most universities have responded to Landmark’s requests in ways that defended the rights of labor centers. However, at Evergreen, despite the fact that the state auditor gave the college significant flexibility in how to handle the audit request, college administrators went forward with a review – conducted by the college’s internal auditor – that raised questions about the ethics of providing educational services to unions and community groups (for example, of immigrant communities), and of being involved in any work that could be seen as opposing the work of federal agencies (in this case, for example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Those questions mirrored charges made by Landmark that “the Center’s focus appears to be increasingly directed toward thwarting federal and state law enforcement efforts to combat illegal immigration in Washington . . . . The use of public funds to undermine federal and local law enforcement in the performance of their duties is not a valid public purpose.”
The claim, as applied to the Labor Center’s activities, appears to suggest that any effort to educate workers and immigrants about their constitutional rights would be counter to the public interest. Such interpretations not only lack face validity, they run counter to the concept of academic freedom, of both individual professionals as well as of the university. They run counter, as well, to conceptions of academics and academic institutions responsibly providing services to society. If academics and universities are involved in community outreach and service, as they should be, they must be protected from ideologically motivated attacks on their academic work. That dimension of academic freedom is part of the contribution of this concept and condition to the benefit of society.
Kudos to Levin and Landmark for their invaluable work exposing the arrogance of the ivory tower.
The bloated higher ed bubble is next to burst.
You can find the damning Evergreen State College Labor Center audit here via the Washington Policy Center. A few fun facts:
From the audit:
A review of the Center’s website, newsletters, mission statement, and other similar documents found numerous instances of activity that has the appearance of violating the State Ethics in Service Act and cannot be tied to the Center’s mission. The activities noted include work with and the appearance of support for special interest groups, training and classes pertaining to resisting work of federal agencies, possible political activity as part of a conference, and payment of dues to special interest groups for membership . . .
A review of the Center’s mission statement and by-laws found that the revised documents currently used by the Center have not been reviewed and approved by Senior Management, the College’s legal counsel, or the Board of Trustees. This created a lack of clarity of the activities and work allowed for the Center and boundaries for staff. The Center’s mission creates close and strong ties with labor unions and in several instances, the members of the Center’s advisory board request and report on work to be done or which has been performed for labor unions. A lack of a clear and approved mission and ambiguity related to the College’s relationship with these organizations provides the appearance of possible ethics issues. Other possible ethics violations included:
* The website provided readers with two petitions: one asking U.S. Congress and the President to declare the birthday of Cesar Chavez a national holiday and another asking reader to stop patronizing Burger King. RCW 42.52.180 specifically prohibits use of State resources for political purposes.
* In one instance, the website announces collections for an outside organization during a Center sponsored activity. An announcement for a Farm worker’s Justice includes a wish list for Bellingham Cooperative and states donations for the cooperative will be collected as part of the event. Collection during a campus event and announcement of this item on the Center’s website is a violation of the State Ethics Law prohibiting use of resources for an outside organization (RCW 42.52.160)
* Both Center newsletters available on the College’s websites and minutes of the advisory board include numerous references to efforts to oppose federal agencies, a rally held as part of a Center managed workshop, political work of the union in several industries, and the Center’s partnerships with special interest groups, all of which provide the appearance of potential violations of RCW 42.52.180 prohibiting use of State resources for political purposes.
* A review of the minutes for the advisory board meetings found several discussions about support of special interest groups. In the October 29, 2006, minutes, a member suggests participation with an organization called “U.S. Labor Against the War”. The committee agreed to advise the center to join the group and directed the Center’s Assistant Director to make a membership payment to the group in possible violation of the Ethics in Public Service Act.
Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker is dead on:
Academics often defend labor centers on the ground that they offer a counterbalance to business schools and economics departments. This is nonsense. Business is commerce and industry, activities upon which human welfare depends. It is the stuff of life, not of politics. Labor unions, on the other hand, exist only to enrich their members, and monopolize the supply of labor in a particular employment relationship. They are legalized cartels, operating for the benefit of their members, and besides most of the biggest ones devote a substantial portion of their income to political donations.
Shannon Love at ChicagoBoyz minces no words:
There is no more unaccountable group in America today than academics. This is true even when they work for public institutions. This is clearly on display in this story about the American Association of University Professors arrogantly claiming that anyone seeking to bring their work out into the sunshine threatens their “academic freedom”.
Academics tell us all how important they are, how they need great gobs of funding but when when the people ask for an accounting of the work and spending, they declare with great moral outrage that, “academic freedom” is under assault by the people wondering where there money went to and what is being done and said in their name.
Academics have forgotten that academic freedom isn’t a natural phenomena but rather a cultural artifact of the free west that people support because it provides benefits to the greater society. The ideal of academic freedom rest on the implied contract between the general society and academia that says that academia will use that freedom to explore and question every possible subject from every possible perspective. It’s the same contract we have with scientist. We let scientist poke around into uncomfortable areas as long as they use scientific methodology to do so. We expect academics in non-scientific areas to do the same. We expect that any academic should understand all perspectives on their area of study and that they should be able to make cogent arguments from of those perspectives.
Yet, since the 1960’s corrupt leftist have hijacked academia to serve their own political interest. They have abandoned, their obligation to investigate every perspective and instead have used the power and status of academia to advance their own pet political causes. Indeed, many in academia seemed to consider themselves political activist first and foremost and public intellectuals secondarily if at all….hy should the rest of us grant them any assumption of the privileges of “academic freedom” when they arrogantly refuse to live up to the responsibilities that come with those privileges?
This is simply pure corruption in the public sphere on the order of using public resources to support specific political campaigns. I think that it far past the time when we called this behavior out for the corruption that it is and root it out of public universities. If professors want platforms to advance advance their pet political theories while suppressing dissenting voices, they can do it with private money at private universities. Professors who want public money must accept the responsibility, the expectations of integrity and the accountability that come with public money and public trust.
It’s time for academics to grow up and learn to be accountable.