In response to:
Trouble at BU from the October 23, 1980 issue
To the Editors:
In his reply to our letter of June 12 concerning violations of academic freedom at Boston University [NYR, October 23], Samuel McCracken, who is a salaried assistant to John Silber, once again confuses the two terms “administration”, and “University.” He speaks of us as people who have “vilified the University.” On the contrary, we are critics of a single administration. Many of us have taught at Boston University for fifteen or twenty years. In those years we have not ever publicly criticized former administrators. It is our attachment to our University which leads us to oppose actions of this administration, actions destructive to university life.
Several of us are able to take a public stand on these matters because we are tenured. True, the administration has not denied all of us salary raises, but if it did, its prejudice would be exposed. A final grant of leave does not mean that one has not been harassed by the administration with initial denial or delay. Indeed, the delay of routine academic matters, in order to harass the faculty, is now a standard operating procedure of this administration.
More important, denial of tenure, postponement of tenure decisions for several years, or refusal to act or to act promptly in making outside tenured appointments, are all regularly used to punish recalcitrant departments or faculty. Samuel McCracken, speaking for the administration, denies all of this. But what he cannot deny and does not explain is how it has happened that this administration has lost the confidence and respect of the faculty. By counting medical school faculty, part-time and adjunct faculty, the administration inflates the total number of faculty so as to reduce the significance of the numbers who have voted their lack of confidence in John Silber. But there is a welldefined central faculty who draw their chief salary from the university and whose loyalty lies entirely with the university. It is these faculty members who have overwhelmingly voted for the resignation of President Silber. In the spring of 1976, they did so by a vote of 377 to 117; in the fall of that same year, by 470 of 772 faculty responding to a mail ballot; and in December of 1979, at the largest faculty meeting in memory, by a vote of 456 to 215. If 456 votes for the removal of John Silber are not significant, then what does Mr. McCracken make of the fact that only 215 faculty (14 percent by his method of calculation) voted against the resolution calling for John Silber’s removal?
Mr. McCracken also flatly denies any censorship of student publications at Boston University. The Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, after a year-long investigation of civil liberties violations at Boston University, prefaced its report as follows: “Although CLUM has received occasional complaints regarding other academic institutions in Massachusetts, it has never, in memory, received such a large and sustained volume of complaints about a single such institution.”
Mr. McCracken is pleased, as the voice of President Silber, to attack our scholarly standards. We are happy to let our scholarly lives speak for themselves. A former high administrator of the Silber administration said to one of us that he resigned because neither truth nor justice, as he understood them, were any longer being served by the administration. It is because we believe in intellectual life that we criticize, not the University, but the present governance of the University under the administration of John Silber.
For the Committee to Save Boston University: Helen Vendler, English; Shane Hunt, Economics; S.M. Miller, Sociology; Freda Rebelsky, Psychology; Frances Fox Piven, Political Science; Howard Zinn, Political Science
November 6, 1980