WASHINGTON, DC -- "At the Ivy League and the prestige schools generally, there is
a hidden commitment to a certain conformist mentality that they dont tell you
about up front, but that many people end up paying for in the long run," Professor
Graham Walker said to the college students and interns attending the Fourth Annual
Eagle Forum Collegians Summit on June 27 in the Russell Senate Caucus Room.
Dr. Walker offered many insights based on experiences throughout his eight years
as an Ivy League professor at the University of Pennsylvania and two years as a
fellow at Princeton University. His address was entitled, "What I Learned in the
Walker faced many struggles in his search for a teaching position at an Ivy League
school. Of the 47 resumes Walker submitted after graduating from college, he
received only three interviews and one job offer.
Initially, Princeton indicated interest in hiring him as an assistant professor,
but a review of his resume revealed that his degree was from Notre Dame University
and that he had worked for Republican Congressman David Stockman. Walker later
learned that a Princeton faculty member wrote a letter encouraging other
professors to oppose Walker because there were already a number of Catholics at
Princeton. "I wasnt Catholic; Im actually Wesleyan Methodist, but they didnt
know that and they didnt really care," Walker said. "They had tagged me."
Two weeks later, an interview with the University of Pennsylvania began a chain
of similarly disturbing events. In February, Penn assured Walker a job, but in
April he received notification that the job offer had fallen through. Walker had
been approved by the search committee and the political science department, but
the next higher level did not want to hire a professor whose resume indicated he
was religious. "Penn, being a school committed to secularism and diversity,
couldnt hire unsecular, undiverse people," Walker commented.
The situation proved embarrassing for Penn, and it was eventually arranged for
Walker to teach there for one year -- without approval from the committee that
opposed him. With the promise that university officials would work to ensure
Walker of a permanent position at the end of the first year, he accepted the job
as an assistant professor at an Ivy League university.
"My teaching experience there was very revealing, although not entirely in a good
way," said Walker, who was warned, "You have to watch out. Youre a religious
person and this is a secular school."
Soon after joining the Penn faculty, Walker volunteered to help with freshman
orientation and found that he disagreed with statements in the official
orientation material. He was expected to discuss case studies with freshmen, but
he immediately recognized that the scenarios were designed to produce
predetermined responses from the students.
In a scenario involving a conservative, rural, Bible-belt Pennsylvania student who
arrived at the university and learned that his roommate was gay, Walker said the
student was expected to respond, "In my community we regard this behavior as
wrong, but those are just our values. I embrace my roommates values equally with
embracing my own values, and therefore I am becoming tolerant and setting aside
the dogmatic intolerant view with which I arrived here in Philadelphia."
Instead of promoting this profession of "tolerance," Walker read some of the
orientation materal to his freshman discussion group and proceeded to de-construct
policies presented by the school. "I thought the freshmen needed some ability to
resist the indoctrination that was going on," Walker said.
Expressing views that were unpopular with his colleagues jeopardized Walkers job
when he underwent the tenure review process. "My years at Penn were culminated
by a very rancorous year of controversy about my tenure," Walker said. "In the
academic world, your colleagues sit down around a table, with you absent, and they
vote on whether or not you keep your job."
During Walkers years at Penn, many new faculty members with modern or postmodern
views joined his department. About a year prior to the official tenure review
process, Walker expressed a difference of opinion about homosexuality to a
colleague who was reportedly gay. After that conversation, the colleague, whom
he had previously considered to be his friend, avoided talking with Walker and
became an opponent of his approval for tenure.
Walker was denied tenure by a single vote. Walker said, "Five tenured colleagues
came to me afterwards during the subsequent months, closed the door behind them
in my office, and said, You know, as one man put it, it was really prejudicial
attitudes toward your religiosity which did you in."
"When I went to Penn, I was ready to give the prestige, progressive, liberal Ivy
League a fair shake," Walker said, but Penn proved unable to accept Walkers
open-minded approach. Walker later learned that he was not the only professor who
had been penalized for expressing unpopular views. Since the 1970s, five other
political science professors who, like Walker, taught moral philosophy had left
the University of Pennsylvania because they were denied tenure or expected tenure
to be denied.
The circumstances of Walkers tenure denial were difficult to accept, but only two
weeks later he received a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study at
Princeton through the National Endowment for the Humanities and the John M. Olin
Foundation. After two years there, Walker has now joined the faculty of the
Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he will begin teaching
"These prestige universities -- the Ivy League and those that aspire to be like
them -- are really increasingly muddled about their own reason for existence,"
Walker said. "They are unable to come to terms with the requirements of being in
an academic community. Every community requires some forms of concerted action
and some constitutive purposes and convictions that hold the thing together.
"The Ivy League university, and those that aspire to be like them, think
themselves philosophically opposed to having any defining purposes or values or
convictions which draw boundaries to include some and exclude others," Walker
said. "Theyre very reluctant about that because that violates the thing called
tolerance, when in fact, because they are a community, they do have boundaries,
they do include and exclude, they do favor some orientations and disfavor others."
Walker found that prestige schools "disdain colleges that have an explicit
commitment as to the purpose of the school" and that they waiver between being
open-minded and being "virtual totalitarians" in their efforts to enforce their
doctrine, which they refer to as diversity, tolerance, or multiculturalism.
Walker said that the unwillingness of prestige schools to commit to a defined
purpose limits the ability of these institutions to educate any student who does
not enter college with specific goals and carefully select courses that will help
him acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.
"By contrast, the schools that have maintained an explicit religious identity are
doing much better with regard to fostering scholarship and learning," Walker said.
In his experience, students at Christian colleges "have been exposed to a wide
variety of views, but not indiscriminately. There is a kind of backbone to it,
but it is an overt backbone that they tell you up front," he sai.
-- by Denise M. DeLancey