Academic Questions December 1991, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 10-12
Hillsdale college - Warren Treadgold, Ralph Hancock, Rodler Morris, Thomas Payne
To the editor: As former professors at Hillsdale College who a few years ago formed half of its division of history and political science, we feel compelled to respond to John Reist’s article, “Hillsdale College: Holding Fast to Principle” (Winter 1990-1991). In our experience, neither Dr. Reist nor Hillsdale’s President George Roche cares much for academic excellence, that traditional liberal arts, or freedom of expression. Hillsdale is gravely deficient in all three.
For years the Hillsdale administration has neglected its academic program to pay for “outreach” activities designed to promote Dr. Roche, maintained a curriculum that requires no appreciable knowledge of Western culture, and used every possible means, including dismissals and threats of lawsuits, to silence dissent of any kind among faculty and students.
Hillsdale’s athletic and pre-professional programs receive so much more emphasis than traditional subjects that US News and World Report classes it among colleges where fewer than half the students are liberal arts majors. Within this category of colleges that give a back seat to the liberal arts, Hillsdale’s regional ranking seems mostly to reflect memories of the time before 1986.
Along with several other Hillsdale professors, three of us resigned in despair within a year after Dr. Roche decided in the Spring of 1986 to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for academic programs on construction of a new field house.
During that year the administration began the student newspaper, the Collegian, for its disagreement with college policies, threatening lawsuits and other reprisals against the student staff and any facility who defended it.
In Spring 1987, after the dean heading the publications board arranged for the appointment of a new Collegian editor over strong student protest, that dean filed suit for slander against one of us who has already resigned, citing remarks that he denied (and denies) making, but that Dr. Reist attributed to him in a conversation when no one was present. This suit was dropped three months later, after inflicting high legal costs, though not on the dean, whose husband is a lawyer.
That spring the one of us who had not resigned composed and circulated a letter to the Collegian, signed by fifteen other faculty members, deploring the use of lawsuits to settle disagreements within the college community. That summer Dr. Reist notified him of his dismissal, declaring that no explanation for it would ever be given. After an investigation the American Academy of University Professors concluded that the letter to the Collegian was “the determining factor” in that dismissal and censured Hillsdale for violating “generally recognized principles of academic freedom”.
Since then, with further dismissals, demotions, and other such actions, the administration seems to have silence most of Hillsdale’s present faculty, though the Collegian has found its choice against.
For example a recent editorial noted:
It seems as if certain professors who may not embellish themselves with the exact Hillsdale; mode of thinking are sinking to the depth of their departments, whipped with the iron chains of restrictions, or flat out fired … We know that some of our professors would like to open all the doors of a liberal arts education. However, it seems as if they are not allowed to do so by the administration.Administrators have reacted to this and similar columns by accusing the Collegian of “libel” and demanding prior review of its copy. We are members of the National Association of Scholars. We accepted positions at Hillsdale in the belief that it did indeed stand for academic excellence, the traditional liberal arts, and freedom of expression, as it claimed it did. But people who value these things should be warned that Hillsdale is not what it claims to be.
P.S. After this letter was drafted but before it was sent, we learned that the Hillsdale administration had forced the editor of the Collegian to resign, and that the rest of the student staff has resigned to express its support for her.
What 30 Years War?