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Scandal Brewing at Baylor University? Denial of Tenure to Francis Beckwith Raises Serious Questions about Fairness and Academic Freedom

John G. West

Last week Baylor University in Texas denied tenure to noted scholar Francis Beckwith. Beckwith is an impeccable scholar with a distinguished publication record, including a forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press. He is also a gentleman in the classic sense of the term, someone who is liked and respected even by his fair-minded opponents.

But Beckwith has a problem: His views are out of sync with the left-wing ideologues who control much of American academia. First, he is a prominent critic of the morality of abortion, and his work on this issue is cited all over the place by other scholars (including in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the topic). Second, Beckwith has defended the the constitutionality of teaching about intelligent design. Note: He has not advocated the wisdom of teaching ID, nor has he taken sides on the ultimate rightness or wrongness of ID. He has only defended the constitutionality of presenting the debate. (But this is no doubt too much for Darwin dogmatists.)

That a scholar of Beckwith’s stature should be denied tenure at Baylor raises serious questions about the university’s commitment to fairness and academic freedom. This is especially the case since it has been reported that Beckwith’s annual evaluations leading up to the tenure denial were glowing. He is said to have received the rating “exceeds expectations” each year. Apparently he exceeded expectations too much for some members of Baylor’s faculty.

Given Beckwith’s exemplary record as a scholar, it seems entirely likely that he was rejected by Baylor because of his viewpoint. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time thought-police on Baylor’s faculty tried to supress a scholar for harboring views they despised. Several years ago, mathematician William Dembski was accorded similarly raw treatment by some of Baylor’s close-minded secular fundamentalists.

If it turns out that Beckwith’s views on intelligent design played a role in his rejection at Baylor, then he will have become the latest victim of a campaign by Darwinists to deny academic freedom to any scholar or grad student who disagrees with them. Recall, for example, the recent cases of Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian, Caroline Crocker at George Mason University, and Bryan Leonard at Ohio State University.

Darwinists and other ideologues in academia are obviously afraid of scholars like Beckwith. Unable to answer their arguments, they want to silence their right to speak. Such ideologues know they can’t win in the freemarketplace of ideas, so they try to hold on to their current monopoly power in academia at all costs.