Three-star Army General and former U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry resigned from his position as head of Northwestern University’s Global Studies Institute—before he had even started working there—after students and faculty complained that he was too “pro-American” and “pro-war.”
Eikenberry is the former deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, and served as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan under President Barack Obama. He was also a visiting senior fellow at Stanford’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center,
But that’s apparently not good enough for Northwestern’s teachers and students, who assailed Eikenberry in an online petition, calling his academic qualifications into question, and demanding that the University appoint “someone who will encourage research that is less belligerent and tainted by U.S. bias.”
The petition claimed that Eikenberry couldn’t not rise to the head of an academic institution because he’d gotten his experience on the field rather than in the classroom (no peer-reviewed studies!) and worse, he might give students a realistic perspective on how things work in the real world (though they didn’t exactly word it that way).
“An ex-U.S. general will likely think about international politics in terms of war and from the perspective of the U.S.’s interests, and the research agenda will be negatively skewed as a result,” said one global policy graduate student.
Clearly, no thought was given to the possibility that global policy might have some application outside the Ivory Tower of academia. He may have lots of experience handling diverse global culture, commanding coalition armies and negotiating actual treaties, but he’s never written a blog post about the benefits of Bernie Sanders economic plans on the Third World, so he’s out.
A letter signed by 230 people, mostly students, expressed concern that Eikenberry’s class would be too much flag-waving and too little flag-burning for their tastes. “As faculty who are deeply committed to academic integrity, we believe that it would be irresponsible to remain silent while the University’s core mission of independent research and teaching becomes identified with U.S. military and foreign policy,” they wrote.
Eikenberry withdrew his acceptance of the position in April, telling the Northwestern faculty that he was clearly not qualified to be among their kind. He did address their concerns, reiterating that he had an impressive resume, but also finished with a jab, explaining that “most who work in the world of institutions” are reluctant to accept outsiders.