Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Friday, January 18, 2002

On a more news-related note, why isn't anyone talking about this Univ. of South Florida ProfessorSami Al-Arian case. OpinionJournal mentions the story with striking fairness (they express ambivalence over the firing). I have to say that I am quite disturbed by this case, especially the comments I heard from the administration's lawyer on NPR today. His claim was that academic freedom is restricted to the field of study that a professor might teach, and that statements made outside that realm are subject to administrative scrutiny, and may be grounds for termination. Because this professor made some inflammatory remarks IN 1988, and was involved in an Islamic studies center that apparently included the head of Islamic Jihad (Dr. Al-Arian claims not to have known this, and was investigated and cleared by the FBI), he was terminated. I am not fond of Dr. Al-Arian's views (he is stridently anti-Israel), but it seems to me that this restriction on academic freedom is exceedingly dangerous. I have seen very little reporting on this, in the mainstream press or blogs. This case seems to me to be the flip side of the same coin as the Orange County Community College professor Ken Hearlson, whose case was quite well documented and covered (for those who don't know, he was suspended for anti-Muslim remarks that it was alleged that he made in the aftermath of 9/11; audiotapes later made clear that he made no such remarks, and he was eventually reinstated). As an aside, I found 26 articles discussing the Hearlson case on Lexis-Nexis, and ~125 on Sami Al-Arian, most from Southeast (Florida) sources. So why doesn't the Bloggy-verse cover this story? Must be that famous liberal bias!! Actually, the lack of coverage of Hearlson could be construed as liberal bias, but I am pretty sure that it was well covered in T.V. and radio (I heard it on NPR). The Al-Arian case, well covered in Florida, hasn't gotten much play anywhere else, IMHO. It certainly hasn't provoked very many impassioned defenses of Dr. Al-Arian's right to say things that we don't agree with.