The Attack on Walter Block
On December 10, the Provost of Loyola University of New Orleans wrote the following to Walter Block. Walter is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola, and a contributor here at Econlib.
Re: Another complaint
Dear Dr. Block,
I write to inform you that I am in receipt of three additional complaints against you from three different students. The key allegations are troubling and they are in clear violation of Loyola’s values, mission and policy. Indeed, the alleged actions are flagrant violations of the well-established principles of Catholic morality and in clear violation of Chapter 9 of the Faculty Handbook. These complaints were received during the course of our ongoing investigation into similar alleged conduct.
The three complainants allege that your statements and commentary have included such abhorrent comments as “slavery wasn’t bad”, “women make less money because they are lazy or incapable,” “women are paid less because they don’t work as hard, and it’s the same with people of color”, and that “‘Disability Act’ shouldn’t exist.” One of the students noted that you openly expressed your racist, homophobic, transphobic and sexist statements publicly in classes, in your writings, and in your emails. This had a profoundly negative impact on the student’s experience at Loyola.
These alleged actions indicate a pattern of complete disregard for Loyola’s values and mission considering the prior investigation and complaints we have received from students. Central to our Jesuit, Catholic identity is our commitment to human dignity and the whole person. I am extremely disappointed that, in spite of your written commitment to “do better”, you seem to continue to ignore your obligation as a faculty member of a Jesuit, Catholic University. You also seem to continue to create a hostile and discriminatory environment for our students.
The University has an obligation under Title IX to ensure that the educational environment is welcoming, equitable and not permeated by ridicule and comments that are derogatory on the basis of gender, race or any other classification. Faculty conduct must be guided by the principles stated in our Faculty Handbook that “concern for the student as a person is central to the Jesuit educational mission.”
As with prior complaints, we will investigate these additional complaints, and you will receive a written determination regarding these alleged actions. Please note, that in light of (1) the number of complaints we received regarding the substantially same alleged conduct, (2) the impact these alleged actions is having on our students, (3) Loyola’s legal obligations, and (4) your apparent continued violation of your obligations under the Faculty Handbook, Loyola may be forced to institute disciplinary proceedings under Chapter 9 of the Faculty Handbook based upon the outcome of these investigations.
Tanuja Singh, DBA
Provost and SVP of Academic Affairs
cc: Michael Capella, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business
Notice what Dr. Singh doesn’t do: she doesn’t invite Walter to respond. Instead, she writes “we will investigate these additional complaints, and you will receive a written determination regarding these alleged actions.” Wouldn’t someone who cares about the truth want to know if these alleged actions even occurred?
And Walter is willing to help her find the truth. On that same day, Walter replied:
Dear Provost Singh:
I hereby acknowledge receipt of this letter of yours.
I have recorded every session of my course this semester. Please tell me on which dates it is alleged that I made these statements. Also, the approximate time during each session I am accused of making them. I shall then respond to these complaints.
Your letter appears to be a summary of three separate complaints made by three of my students in my law and econ class. Please send me, verbatim, a copy of the complaints they sent you.
Whatever happened to that complaint made the first week of this semester to the effect that I likened Ghandi to Hitler, and that the Mises Institute is a Nazi organization? I responded to that in early September, and I have not heard your assessment of that complaint.
Campus Reform tells some of the story here.
Some students who are fans of Walter put together a letter, but it seems to be one that was written in response to similar threats some time ago. It’s here. It’s titled “Give Walter Block a Pay Raise.”
I signed it and wrote the following as my explanation:
Walter is a thinker who tries to get his students to think. And, from everything I can tell, he succeeds. Of course, like one of the students who complained, I was not in Walter’s class. But I have known him since attending a one-week conference with him (and with Nobel Prize winner Friedrich Hayek) in June 1975. Walter provokes in a friendly way. But he is one of the least racist people I know.
I notice that Provost Singh thinks that a statement that the Disability Act shouldn’t exist is racist and/or sexist. Seriously? Is she aware that one of the groups that has been most hurt by that law is people who are disabled? The reason is that the requirement for accommodating those with disabilities makes employers hesitant to hire disabled people. But I wouldn’t accuse Provost Singh of being against the disabled because she favors a law that hurts them. She should just admit her ignorance and let professors who are opening students’ minds continue to do so.
I don’t have a position, by the way, on whether Walter deserves a pay increase, although if we buy into the idea that people should be paid more for taking risk, then he probably does.
The Provost arrived on campus in early 2020. She may not be familiar with a past attack on Walter by the President of Loyola that he handled very well. Here’s my post on a previous attack.
In reading Provost Singh’s letter to Walter, I noticed something else that’s concerning. She writes “The key allegations are troubling and they are in clear violation of Loyola’s values, mission and policy.” I agree with her that allegations of racism and sexism are troubling. (As noted, I don’t agree that opposing a law that hurts disabled people is troubling.) But how can she say that the allegations “are in clear violation of Loyola’s values, mission and policy?” That would be true only if the allegations are true. Has the Provost already made up her mind? Now that would be troubling.