Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blog War: Reason vs. Malkin

Weigel vs. Malkin vs. Weigel vs. Malkin ... it's a blogospheric Somme!

Tensions over the long war have clearly resulted in frayed nerves. People on both sides are angry and frustrated.

I don't see anything to indicate that Malkin's criticism -- or communications from Malkin's blog readers -- caused the suicide of UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton, who apparently jumped from a 42-story building.

Denton suffered from thyroid problems and depression, problems that may have been related. She was hired at $300,000 for the chancellor's job, and suffered some scandal when it was revealed that her girlfriend, Gretchen Kalonji, had been given a $192,000 UC job, perhaps in some kind of package deal for Denton. And then UC spent $600,000 to renovate the chancellor's residence.

Denton was under all kinds of pressure at UC Santa Cruz, but she knew all about pressure in academia, having been one of those who fiercely attacked Harvard's Lawrence Summers:
A month before becoming chancellor, Ms. Denton had landed in many newspaper articles for criticizing statements made by Harvard University's president, Lawrence H. Summers, in which he questioned women's abilities in math and science. ...
The outspoken chancellor traveled with a folder of material she used to counter Mr. Summers's points.
Denton on Summers:
“Here was this economist lecturing pompously to this room full of the country’s most accomplished scholars on women’s issues in science and engineering, and he kept saying things we had refuted in the first half of the day.”
Denton stoked the outrage that ended with Summers losing his job -- but he has not committed suicide, so Denton and her feminist allies are not under suspicion of hounding the man to death.

Denton has committed suicide, and if you don't like Michelle Malkin, then this is an opportunity to scapegoat Malkin. But there is, I repeat, no evidence that harassment from Malkin -- or from anyone else on the right -- had anything to do with Denton's suicide.

Indeed, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Denton faced far more intense harassment from the campus left:
Critics, angry over student-fee increases and lower-paid staff members' wages, attacked Ms. Denton's own compensation package. ...

One element of the chancellor's compensation — a $30,000 dog run that was part of improvements made at her residence on the campus — made Ms. Denton a punch line and a symbol of excess in the systemwide compensation scandal that has unfolded since last fall.

Ms. Denton had begun to fear for her safety, according to news reports. On several occasions last year, groups of protesting students had tried to spend the night on her property, requiring Ms. Denton to "negotiate intensely" before they would leave, said David S. Kliger, the provost. A window in her office was broken last year. And at 3 a.m. one night in June 2005, a parking barricade was used to break her bedroom window.

During a campus protest on June 6 over staff wages and faculty diversity, students surrounded Ms. Denton in her car, sat on the trunk and hood, and struck it with placards, said Elizabeth M. Irwin, a university spokeswoman. The students also performed a skit about racism.

"The atmosphere," said Ms. Irwin, "was intimidating and disrespectful."

So, irrespective of the justice of Malkin's criticism of Denton, there is no reason to think that conservative criticism contributed to Denton's death. Nor, I think, does Malkin need to apologize to anyone for having suggested that her readers should express their disapproval of Denton's policies at UCSC by contacting Denton's office.

Denton was the chief executive of a public university, established by the government of California, subsidized by state and federal taxes. Having taken such a (highly remunerative) job, Denton had no more "right to privacy" than a senator, a congressman or any other government official.

If you're living on the taxpayers' dime, you've got to expect to get an earful from the taxpayers when you screw up. This is as true of a state university president as it is of Donald Rumsfeld. It's the "your tax dollars at work" principle.

Academics, with their ivory-tower pretensions and lofty talk about free inquiry, have failed to come to grips with the fact that -- because of the vast expansion of government aid to higher education -- they are now servants of the taxpayers. This brings educators under a regime of political accountability that may not be wholly compatible with the disinterested pursuit of Truth.

Then again, getting the taxpayers to pay you $300,000 a year to pursue Truth -- and getting a $200,000-a-year gig for your girlfriend as part of the deal -- is kind of a sweet gig. Excuse me, then, if I have a hard time accepting the notion that Denton was some kind of a martyr. Suicide is a terrible thing, but thousands of people kill themselves every year without having ever been attacked by Michelle Malkin.