For the critics of natural law and two kingdoms who think the light of nature needs the lift of special revelation to be discernible, comes a sensible essay by one of my favorite writers, Joseph Epstein. The occasion for the piece published in the Weekly Standard was the presentation by a professor at Northwestern University that involved a sex act, performed in front of undergraduate students. Epstein himself taught for many years at Northwestern while editing the American Scholar and has first-hand knowledge of the demise of academic standards and even common sense within Northwestern and higher education more generally.
Not only is Epstein’s article worth reading for its diagnosis of the problems that afflict universities and colleges, but it also demonstrates that people who are not regenerate have the capacity for moral discernment.
Consider the following:
When I began teaching at Northwestern in 1973, the smoke had not yet cleared from the student revolution. I recall at the time hearing gossip about a teacher who was sleeping with one of his students, and when I checked with a friend on the faculty, he confirmed that it was likely true. “Do many younger professors sleep with their undergraduate students?” I asked this same friend. “I don’t know many who don’t” was his rather casual reply.
Does sleeping with one’s undergraduate students come under the shield of academic freedom, or was it instead an academic perk, or ought it, again, to be admonished, if not punished by dismissal? Although a youngish bachelor at the time, I eschewed the practice myself, chiefly because I thought sleeping with one’s students was poor sportsmanship—fish in a barrel and all that—and my own taste happened to run to grown-up women; I also thought it was, not to put too fine or stuffy a point on it, flat-out wrong. I wondered, too, if in its taking unfair advantage—a teacher after all has the power of awarding grades to students—it wasn’t an obvious violation of academic freedom, and not merely crummy.
Why would Reformed Protestants not want to encourage such wisdom and conviction by insisting that Epstein first take out his copy of the Hebrew Scriptures before commenting on conditions at his old campus?