Prof. Zeckhauser showed a bit more spine”about one and a half vertebrae:
None of his advisors would have accepted his thesis had he thought that his empirical work was tilted or in error. However, Richwine was too eager to extrapolate his empirical results to inferences for policy.
Jon Wiener of the leftie magazine The Nation was most vexed by Christopher Jencks, the third member of the dissertation committee. Prof. Jencks, Wiener tells us, has been “for decades a leading figure among liberals who did serious research on inequality.” But not that kind of inequality!
When Wiener put the question to him, Prof. Jencks took discretion to be the better part of valor:
Why would Christopher Jencks decide that that dissertation was worth a Harvard Ph.D.? I asked Jencks whether he would comment. He replied “Nope. But thanks for asking.”
I assumed that Harvard professors eminent enough to be sitting on a dissertation committee would be tenured. To be on the safe side I checked this point with Bob Weissberg, who has spent most of his life in universities and once had tenure himself. By the same chemistry that enables Protestants and Catholics in Belfast to distinguish one another by sight, Bob can spot a tenured academic at a hundred yards. Yes, he said, all three are tenured.
That means they have nothing to lose by taking a clear stand for disinterested scholarship, for the reputation of their college, and for their own names. Why didn”t they stand up for Richwine against the mob?
The entire justification for academic tenure is that it allows the best intellects among us to roam freely in their research without any need to fear political consequences.
Eminent professors at distinguished universities are the guardians of our civilization, front-line troops in the never-ending war against barbarism. For the Richwine Three to desert their posts like this is civilizational high treason.
The Chinese scholar Sima Qian spoke up for a friend who had earned the wrath of the Emperor. Thus further infuriated, the Emperor ordered Sima Qian to suffer the penalty of castration, and this penalty was carried out.
We live in gentler times, thank goodness. Profs. Borjas, Zeckhauser, and Jencks are in no peril of castration for their offenses against State Ideology. But really, in their cases, what difference would it make?
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