What do these two examples have in common? According to the column, and I'm paraphrasing, it's very easy to go along with the flow of faculty members who express the "popular" views on campus--e.g., that the lacrosse players "must have been" guilty, or that certain controversial speakers (but not others) should be allowed to speak on campus.
I'm not equating what the Duke President did, in joining the faculty's rush to judgment, with what Columbia's President did (allowing Ahmadinejad to speak). What does resonate for me, though, is how groups of faculty members--most of whom are protected by tenure--can get away with bullying behavior, because universities aren't set up to link acts with consequences. Here's what Dr. Sowell said:
The real problem on these and other campuses is that no one has to take responsibility. With the power being in the faculty, administrators can evade responsibility, and trustees are not around enough to exercise the ultimate power that is legally theirs.
Moreover, so long as alumni and other donors keep sending money, there is no price to be paid for caving in to the threats of campus ideologues.
It's not just the traditional administrative game of "it's not me; it's the faculty" going on here. It's also the game of "if you don't give in, I'll make your life as an administrator as miserable as I can." Both games have world-class players at most institutions of higher education. For some other posts on bad behavior in higher education, take a look at Jim Chen's and Jeff Harrison's recent posts on MoneyLaw (here and here).