My 15 minutes of fame regarding my insight into the Marxist ideology of young Barack Obama has also allowed me to restore some old friendships and ties originally developed while I was on the faculty in the political science department at Williams College in MA. My story got picked up on the famous EphBlog – which is an unofficial source of news and commentary related to our nation’s #1 ranked liberal arts college.
It brings back memories to read what people thought of me during my three years at Williams College. As you may know, I was not allowed to compete for tenure because of my “low quality” scholarship in the eyes of the political science department. Ironically, about a month later I won the Williams Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association in recognition of the extraordinary quality of my scholarship. At any rate, this seems like a good place to set the record straight about my talent as a scholar in the 1980s.
First, it was an extraordinary thing for me to win the William Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association in 1989. Among graduate students, this is the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal. As far as I know, not a single member of the political science department had ever won a similar award at such an early point in their own careers. It is basically a sign that you are the best of your generation as a political scientist.
To suggest that winning this award was not an embarrassment to the political science department at Williams College is kind of odd…especially because their announced reason for not allowing me to even compete for tenure was the “low quality” of my research. Give me a break! This was the one of the most obvious cases of reverse discrimination against young white men in the nation in the late 1980s.
As for publishing, my dissertation is now widely available, almost word-for-word as I wrote it in 1987, as the first nine chapters of the Howard Gensler, ed. The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure and Effects. (Praeger, 1996) My thesis was cited in Theda Skocpol’s book Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy. I don’t think there is any doubt in the political science literature that I changed the way scholars think about the development of welfare programs in the U.S. by calling attention to the role child labor law enforcement played in causing welfare program to begin. For the folks at Williams to attack my scholarship still bothers me today.
Moreover, my work on child labor and child welfare sparked a decade long look at Progressive Era child welfare programs and caused scholars to rethink the role of child labor law enforcement as a development strategy in third world nations.
Second, I think it is fair to say that my time at Williams sparked a Renaissance of conservative thought on campus including the establishment of a conservative radio show, a conservative television show, and the first conservative newspaper on campus. My campaign for the state assembly seat was a useful education for me and provided opportunities for conservative students to get involved in the real, day-to-day politics of the community.
As I recall, I was also one of the most highly rated professors while I was at Williams College – even as I competed for electoral office. My scores were way above the norm for the rest of the faculty members on campus.
Third, the real problem, as I see it is that I was young, vulnerable and unprotected when I was a faculty member at Williams College. There was no one there capable of advising me to file a lawsuit against the school, no national organization of conservative academics to argue my case, and no cadre of political supporters willing to fight my cause for being allowed to compete for tenure. I was the first person on my mother’s side of the family to even graduate from college.
In retrospect, racial preferences for minorities hit me and harmed my career at a time when I was least capable of protecting myself. It was a cruel blindside punch that did enormous damage to me financially and emotionally. I can report that I have never forgotten the destructive impact of that decision to not allow me to even compete for tenure like a normal junior faculty member.
Even today, it reminds me that Democrats have no compassion for the young white people they harm with their liberal affirmative action agenda.
No one at Williams College seems to care that I grew up poor, that there was raw sewage in the back yard of my home as I grew up, that I had no special advantages, and that my early achievements were signs of extraordinary promise (and talent) given the extreme difficulties of my childhood, teen years, and the poverty I endured as a young graduate student. Today, the way I was treated by affirmative action programs in CA in the early 1990s is illegal.
I cannot remember anything more painful in my life that spending 10 years to prepare myself to become a political scientist only to be told, at the end of the process: “Sorry, you’re white.”
Clearly, I have to say that I didn’t handle leaving Williams College properly. I was profoundly hurt by the experience…particularly the attacks on my award-winning scholarship. I think the students I left behind thought, somehow, I was angry at them. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I still remember the tears of the students in my classroom on my last day as an assistant professor at Williams College. The students were, undoubtedly, the best part of my experience while I was teaching at Williams.
I want them to know today that the raw talent and considerable promise they saw in me was later recognized by both Praeger Publishers and the American Political Science Association. In retrospect, I should have taken the extra year on my contract and taught at Williams in 1989-1990. I should have fought harder to call attention to the divisiveness and hatred caused by affirmative action by constantly reminding the world that my scholarship was well-respected outside of the Williams College political science department. The real problem is that I had a large U.S. flag displayed in my office and I went out of my way to wish the students Merry Christmas!