Christopher Santarelli’s column, (‘Silber’s Shadow,’ Oct. 27, p. 6) was interesting, and I agree that President emeritus John Silber should not be vilified as completely evil. However, I am less inclined to positively portray him as someone who maintained a steadfast adherence to the Constitution.
The column said Silber was autocratic and petty in tenure battles, but it failed to mention that the Constitution is written to defend people against tyranny and even more practically it did not mention the nature of the tenure battles. Silber consistently denied tenure to people he disagreed with politically, and furthermore, he was once tried for sexual discrimination in a tenure dispute with a woman in the English department. Silencing people for political and gender reasons is an act of tyranny that should not be welcome in America and definitely not welcome on a college campus that should act as a bastion for equality and constitutionalism.
Silber developed Boston University into a world-class institution, and nobody can deny that; but to not question his means is irresponsible. He created an autocratic regime at BU that alienated students of different political affiliations – not to mention his imposition of strict social codes that hindered a student’s personal right to act based on his or her own set of morals.
It is an important topic, because Silber’s legacy should be addressed at BU. However, I think the column was unbalanced, politically motivated and petty when discussing anti-Americanism. America is a country that welcomes opposition in order to create new ideals. Stifling protest is un-American.
The closing point that the university needs to move forward in the same spirit as the founder is especially unnerving. The university should be grateful to Silber because of the base that he built, but BU should move on from its contentious past in a new direction that allows students and faculty more say in BU’s development.