Monday, October 28, 2002

One quick footnote (so to speak) the Michael Bellesiles case. I know one of the members of the investigative committee, Stanley Katz, Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and former President of the American Council of Learned Societies. And one other, Hanna Gray, is former president of the University of Chicago, my current home. (I don't know much about the third, Laurel Ulrich.) They're each distinguished historians, and it was presumably in that capacity that they were chosen to lead the investigation. But they're also each people of exceptional integrity, and are widely known as such. ACLS and Chicago are institutions for academics' academics, and Katz and Gray have the reputation of having been exceptionally dedicated to serious and rigorous scholarship. (One sign of Katz's integrity is that, year in and year out, he's the only prominent figure willing to question the MacArthur Foundation's "genius awards," not because of political bias or trendiness, but just because it's a strange way for a foundation to spend its money and to advance any scholarly, artistic, or social agenda.) They're not only knowledgeable about history but also knowledgeable about and committed to the academy in general. It's unsurprising that they did such a fair and careful job. I have no particular reason to even have a guess as to the politics of either Katz or Gray-- itself a bit unusual in academia-- and that in its way is the point.

And so we see Bellesiles claiming that the charge the investiagtive committee was given was too narrow; but we do not see him charging bias in the committee. The rest of us who also care about the academy and scholarly integrity owe them thanks for their work on the Bellesiles problem, and for much else besides. And those whose interest in this case is primarily due to the subject matter should be glad that Emory chose investigators whose judgment is valued so highly in academia.

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