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History at Iowa was history at Duke for Mark Moyar

The University of Iowa's history department and Duke's history department have a couple of things in common. Both have made national news because neither has a Republican faculty member. And both rejected the application of Mark Moyar, a highly qualified historian and a Republican, for a faculty appointment.

Moyar graduated first in the history department at Harvard; his revised senior thesis was published as a book and sold more copies than an average history professor ever sells. After earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England, he published his dissertation as "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965" with Cambridge University Press, which has received even more attention and praise.

Moyar's views of Vietnam are controversial and have garnered scorn and abuse from liberal historians, including the department chair at the University of Iowa, Colin Gordon. Moyar revealed on his resume that he is a member of the National Association of Scholars, a group generally to the right of the normal academic organization. Gordon and his colleagues at Iowa were undoubtedly aware of Moyar's conservative leaning and historical view.

Moyar is undoubtedly qualified. He is unquestionably diverse; his views are antithetical to many of the Iowa professors' views. Yet the Iowa department hired someone who had neither received degrees from institutions similar to Cambridge and Harvard nor published a book despite having completed graduate school eight years earlier (history scholars are expected to publish books within approximately six years of finishing their doctorates).

In the Iowa history department there are 27 Democrats and zero Republicans. The Iowa hiring guidelines mandate that search committees "assess ways the applicants will bring rich experiences, diverse backgrounds and ideology to the university community." After seeking a freedom of information disclosure, Moyar learned that the Iowa history department had, in fact, not complied with the hiring manual. It seemed that Moyar was rejected for his political and historical stands.

Maybe it was an unlikely aberration. But Moyar told the Duke College Republicans earlier this fall that he is skeptical because an application of his a few years ago at Duke for a history professorship progressed in much the same way it proceeded in Iowa.

After Moyar did not receive an interview he asked Professor Alex Roland, head of the Duke search committee, why his qualifications did not at least merit an interview. Roland replied in an e-mail obtained by the Duke College Republicans that, "Each of the committee members attempted to balance scholarship, teaching experience and/or potential, programmatic issues, fit with the department, and other issues in reaching their decisions. I cannot summarize how those played out for each committee member in your case."

Roland provided nothing specific; Moyar was baffled that someone with his qualifications could be rejected without any reasons given. He asked Roland again why his application was rejected despite the fact that Moyar would have replaced a professor with a similar research interest. Roland stated simply that the process was confidential.

Duke's history department rejected Moyar in Spring 2004 and granted the position to a historian who has not published a book, even today, three years after the appointment.

Moyar was nonplussed, needless to say.

The Duke Conservative Union revealed in 2004 that the Duke history department had 32 registered Democrats and zero registered Republicans. John Thompson, the history department chair, blithely told The Chronicle in February 2004, "The interesting thing about the United States is that the political spectrum is very narrow," implying that political affiliation is relatively trivial. According to Michael Munger, a political science professor at Duke, Duke faculty remarked in a Duke-sponsored panel in 2004 that, "Asking history to hire a conservative is exactly like asking biology to hire a creationist."

Moyar learned of the information about party affiliation among Duke faculty and suspected that it had something to do with his rejection. He voiced his concerns in a letter to Nannerl Keohane, who was then president of Duke. Keohane told Provost Peter Lange to look into the matter.

Moyar said that Lange set up an inquiry, which proceeded privately for five months. Moyar said he received a short message from Lange saying that the history department's search had been correctly carried out. Moyar asked for a more detailed account of Lange's inquiry, Moyar said the request remains unanswered.

The lacrosse scandal received and still receives incessant public and private attention. But the hiring debacle was passed over in relative silence.

Keohane stated around that same time, "One of the fundamental tenets of our University is that we provide an environment where multiple views can be raised."

Not too many Republican views, it seems.

I for one have had teachers I know are left-wing. Yet never have I had teachers tendentious, unfair or inappropriate in their behavior, although others reportedly have. The problem here seems institutional. When-according to Munger-in at least one case a Duke department chair has said, "The function of Duke [is] to rid conservative students of their hypocrisies," there is something not quite right.

Seven Duke professors have signed onto Historians Against the War, a group that expressly implores other historians to publicly denounce the war. Perhaps professors are willing to tolerate conservative students, but it is clear that faculty members are expected to conform to a political standard.

Wheeler Frost is a Trinity sophomore and vice chair of Duke College Republicans.


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