Slate applauded faculty at the University of Virginia for resigning in protest when a former Trump administration official received a fellowship at the university.
Dahlia Lithwick laid out the dilemma anti-Trump forces face in academia.
“The Trump administration’s daily assault on truth is testing our civil structures in ways they haven’t been tested in decades,” she wrote.
“Perhaps the central challenge for Democratic institutions that are usually predicated on civil disagreement, open dialogue, truthful inquiry and multiple viewpoints is this: How do you remain faithful to these ideals of truth seeking as an exercise in openness to multiple perspectives without giving cover to the anti-democratic and truth-destructive values of a demagogue like Donald Trump? Long after Trump is gone, we’ll be thinking through issues around reasoned discourse and collusion.”
The academy, Lithwick said, seeks to sit out the Trump controversy and focus on its work, but that won’t do anymore.
“The challenge has already stymied the court system, the free press, city and local governments and public debate,” she wrote. “The academy, though, has sought as best it can to avoid the dilemma altogether. A good many academics to whom I have spoken in recent months have told me their best hope is to keep to themselves, work in their limited fields, be good teachers and scholars, and count on something larger than themselves change things in government. More often that not, university leaders tell me that it is best for the academy to stay as neutral as possible and to count on the Trump moment to be fleeing. That may no longer be a tenable approach.”
Lithwick reported the two professors who quit the Miller Center, the history study center that offered Marc Short, the president’s former legislative director, the fellowship, will stay on as tenured professors but no longer be involved in the center’s work. This is because Short’s appointment “runs counter to the Center’s fundamental values of non-partisanship, transparency, openness, a passion for truth and objectivity and civility.”
It would be fine if he spoke on campus or took on some lesser role, they wrote. But a fellowship is different. It can’t go to someone who, as Lithwick wrote, “used his position in the administration to launch attacks on the free press, the nation’s law enforcement forces and the right to vote, actions which should be disqualifying from any academic post.”