Yesterday, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on Dr. John Lewis’ recent travails at Ashland University (subscription required). For those who are unaware, here is a brief recap: After initially denying Lewis tenure this spring because Lewis supports Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, Ashland reversed itself, granting Lewis his tenure, but only the condition that he offer his resignation. Ashland acknowledged that Lewis has a superlative research and teaching record and did not proselytize his views in the classroom, yet the mere fact that Lewis is an Objectivist was enough to disqualify him from teaching at Ashland.
If this strikes you as odd, it gets even better: Ashland accepted money from the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship so Lewis and former Ashland professor C. Bradley Thompson could concentrate on Objectivist research.
Ashland’s conservative leaders argued that Lewis threatened the University’s Judeo-Christian mission. This claim is disingenuous; Lewis teaches classical history, not religious morals and as his spring talk at George Mason attests, Lewis is an outspoken advocate for religious and philosophic freedom and against religious tyranny. Are Ashland’s standards such that it cannot tolerate an advocate for reason, tolerance and individual rights on its faculty?
And what will Lewis’ dismissal mean for other Ashland faculty who fail to sufficiently toe this newly emboldened Christian line? For example, this Ashland professor teaches (or should I say dares to teach) a course on the Bible as literature. He explicitly states that his course will “read the Bible as a literary text, similar to other writings from the ancient and classical world, operating under the assumption that the Bible is a human document, an anthology of writings put together by human beings over time” (emphasis mine). Does this professor now have to fear that Ashland University’s holy warriors will force him to resign too?
In my view, Ashland University’s decision to force a professor like John Lewis’ to resign means that this university has relegated itself to being little more than a Bible college for politically correct Republicans. If that is their wish, so be it, yet I wonder just how many of its faculty and students have signed up for that mission.