No liberty for liberals

November 4, 2005

Daphne Patai's article lamenting the political censorship in universities was a timely warning to the UK not to follow the path already "chosen" by our US colleagues (Opinion, October 28).

Last year, I was interviewed for a faculty position at a leading US establishment. After delivering my interview lecture, I did the obligatory rounds of the department, starting with the éminence grise (a leading authority). He spent the first ten minutes lecturing me on my inappropriate use of the word "girl" when attributing some work to one of my lab colleagues (as opposed to one of "the guys" I mentioned earlier), stating that it might have offended some of the female faculty. I was stunned, and asked someone whether anyone else had found this offensive. I was told that at least two others had mentioned it. The cultural verbal differences between the US and UK are considered in one direction only.

At dinner on the evening of the interview, prospective colleagues, all earning about US$100,000 (£57,000), discussed childcare, housekeepers and cleaners. The sweatshop wages for the (female) individuals that help to keep middle-class female professors at work from 8am to 8pm never came up.

The worst aspect of political censorship at US universities is the hypocrisy. I was offered the job and declined. The stunning lack of liberty among those who consider themselves to be exemplary liberals was a major factor in this decision.J Name and address supplied

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