The ISO

The real question about the ISO is what do these socialist students have to hide. Obviously, if they have nothing to hide they wouldn’t have a problem with someone outside their group observing what’s going on. Their ideas are troubling enough. When you add secrecy to the mix one has to really wonder what’s going on. The activities of our local chapter of this Romper Room for budding totalitarians raise some serious questions. The real issue here is that the International Socialist Organization (like much of the left in general) has a real problem with having its activities held up to scrutiny. While they feel it’s fine to criticize conservatives – basically by their definition anyone who doesn’t agree with them – they object when the lens is turned on them. What we have in the ISO is a cult – a cult based on politics rather than religion. The fact is that the ideas that the International Socialist Organization promotes are bad ideas. Ideas that really have no place in the university. They are supporters of the use of violence to solve problems. If you look on their web site you will see a variety of statements that support violence including “We support the right to armed self-defense in the face of racist attacks” or that ” capitalism produces poverty, racism, famine, environmentalcatastrophe and war” so they favor “only mass struggles of the workers themselves can destroy the capitalist system of oppression and exploitation.” They also claim that the present government structures including the Congress, the military, and the courts are inherently corrupt and cannot be used by the working class. Their arguments are misleading, intellectually flawed, and clearly not validated by historical experience. Essentially, what we have in the ISO are a group of apologists for terrorism. Leaving their politics aside, they have a perfect right to their opinions however flawed, the fact is that University policy clearly states that ” the University rejects the use or threat of force as a means of resolving differences. Violence is both unnecessary and inappropriate for those who have access to reasoned discourse and is unacceptable within an institution dedicated to reason.” This begs the question, obviously, of how the ISO can even be a recognized student organization? Either they totally reject the use of violence and state so formally or they shouldn’t be a student organization. It’s that simple. You can’t have a student organization that operates in defiance of stated university policy. More troubling is the issue of the students and their faculty advisor. The students, presumably, get student loans. Isn’t it somewhat hypocritical to take a benefit from the same government that you protest? Membership in the ISO costs $240 a year. I wonder if any student loan money was used by students to pay for their dues? Is that an appropriate use of those funds? I also, personally, have to wonder whether it is healthy for students to be members of the ISO? A group that isolates itself from the mainstream of the society and the university, one that advocates a “Them against us” mentality, one that indoctrinates members in a world view which advocates violence. A group which doesn’t encourage the members to interact with other members of the university community who might possibly disagree with them or challenge their beliefs? It’s not how I would want to live, but tastes differ obviously. Now, as to the issue of Professor Welch. She obviously has a perfect right to do what she wants in terms of her politics. It seems morally inconsistent,however, to be an employee of the state while, simultaneously, protesting that same government. One could, I presume, argue that her salary is somehow untainted since it comes from the state and not directly from the federal government, but I think that’s a questionable argument at best. This leaves aside the whole business of the professor’s loyalty oath, which I presume she signed when she came to work here, which mandates that we support and defend the constitution. It would be a different situation if UVM was a private university, but we’re not. She has a perfect right to her beliefs, but not when they interfere with her obligations as an educator and her responsibility to the University. If people are meeting in private homes they can do what they want. If you want to join a cult and meet in someone’s garage in the dead of night and read tea-leaves you’re free to do so. You can advocate any kind of political philosophy you want — on your own time and your own property on your own nickel.In this case these are public meetings on public property. They should be open to anyone at any time who wishes to observe what’s going on – this is especially true when the group is affiliated with an organization that advocates or supports or is affiliated with groups that promote the use of violence. There’s a legitimate public interest in being aware of the activities and plans of such groups. In the particular case in question I failed to see any evidence put forth that the student involved was doing anything other than listening and taking notes — the very foundation of intellectual inquiry. One has to wonder what activities the ISO was discussing that need to be kept secret from the public? Presumably the point of a legitimate political movement is to get your ideas to the widest range of people. It’s hard to see how this jibes with secrecy. The role of the university is to promote ideas. However, we also have an obligation to hold bad ideas up to scrutiny and public review. And, if necessary, rebuke.