Robert Geroux

Robert Geroux is a political theorist.

By this author

Immunity, Community, and Libertarianism

We seem to be going through an immunitary moment.

#Ferguson Protests -- Did You March?

Shortly after 5 pm yesterday, I joined with others and marched in protest. While I was marching, I had time to reflect: What brought me there? The immediate and proximate cause was of course the lack of an indictment in the Michael Brown case. I am profoundly concerned about the racialization of the criminal justice system. But an equally important commitment comes from a concern about the militarization of police power in our country.

Salaita, Abbate and Academia

I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good news. Steven Salaita is suing the University of Illinois. Or rather, his attorneys are suing the university, not because his job offer was withdrawn, but because officials at Illinois are refusing to reply to an FOI request that specifically targets emails sent from outside the university. The evidence trail thus far suggests (but does not prove) an orchestrated letter-writing campaign aimed at Illinois administrators. Connecting the dots between right-wing activists and university officials would shed new light on the Salaita case. It would also illuminate a disturbing (and growing) trend.

Which leads to the bad news. A Philosophy TA at Marquette University has become another casualty in the right's culture war. In a nutshell, here's what happened: Philosophy grad student Cheryl Abbate leads a class on a discussion of ethical theory. The issue of gay marriage arises. Professor Abbate addresses the topic briefly and then moves on. A student then comes to her after class and complains, saying that he was offended they didn’t spend more time talking about gay marriage so that he might fully register his disapproval. As Professor Abbate elaborates on her pedagogical decision to keep the discussion moving in a different direction, she notices that the student is recording her responses. The recorded discussion as well as a (one-sided) account of the incident then goes to another faculty member at MU -- John McAdams, in the Political Science Department -- who posts it on his blog. In McAdams’ account, what was originally a pedagogical decision about the direction of a discussion becomes an egregious example of political correctness and the chilling effect that happens when liberal professors take over to promote the interests of (what he calls) the “gay lobby.”

Salaita, the Free Speech Movement, and the Occupation of "Civility"

Depending on which metaphor one prefers, the American left’s obsession with identity politics has become either a dead-end or an ironic u-turn. I have written about this issue before, in the context of contemporary conservatives stealing the liberal political playbook and deploying the imagery of oppression in the context of Christians who face “discrimination” in an allegedly secularist society. There’s now another manifestation to contemplate, made clear in the Salaita affair and a discussion of “civility" in its wake.

A summary of events so far looks something like this:

1. Prospective faculty member at U Illinois gets “unhired” because of some critical comments made on social media.
2. University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise makes a public statement defending her decision on that unhiring, focusing especially on the importance and priority of “civility.”
3. University of California Chancellor Nicholas Dirks turns the discussion of civility in an unexpected direction, claiming to find relevant lessons about civil discourse in the Free Speech Movement.

The Salaita Affair

Many of you already know about the Steven Salaita affair at the University of Illinois. Here’s an excellent summary of what has happened so far, with an important update on external pressures that may have influenced Chancellor Wise’s decision.

My question here is straightforward and brief: What’s the relevance of this case to the current state of Catholic higher ed?

Division, Disagreement and Democracy (Another post on Ferguson)

I too have read the Pew Center report on the sad state of affairs in Ferguson. And like E.J. Dionne, I think that acknowledging division – certain sorts of division that cut across different cleavages and not simply the single cleavage of race – is a positive thing, something that opens and encourages debate and provides the potential for coalition-building.

Religion and the "Value-Added" Life

One of the most egregious (and frankly ugly) cliches of the managerial class is the language of labor that adds value, or “value-added” activity that builds on (and builds up) the entrepreneurial self.

FSM at Fifty, Student Activism at Catholic Colleges

This fall will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement on the campus of U Cal-Berkeley. One can expect a number of reflections and retrospective studies, and indeed I’m working on another piece that examines student activism then and now. I want here to ask some questions, focusing especially on the experience of students at Catholic colleges and universities. If you were there in ’64, on the campus of Fordham or Notre Dame, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Santa Clara or wherever, how did the FSM strike you?

Brat (brief)

Here's a nice bit, about David Brat's views regarding religion, virtue and the market. Apparently the guy's never read Mandeville, for whom, famously, the market is a hive of activity that depends on vice (not virtue) to flourish at peak efficiency and productivity. Remember the Fable of the Bees (1723)?: "Thus every Part was full of Vice, Yet the whole Mass a Paradise."