Economics Professor Walter Block at Loyola University of New Orleans faces dueling petitions as students try to oust the self-described libertarian academic over what some claim are racist comments in The New York Times six years ago. Block supposedly said slavery was “not so bad – you pick cotton and sing songs,” but his comments were so misconstrued by the Times that the publication settled with him in a defamation lawsuit.
Nevertheless, students dedicated to “social justice” are now demanding the university fire the tenured professor who chairs the school’s economics department. Their petition for his firing has so far garnered only few more than 600 signatures as of this writing. None of those who have signed so far, Block told The Federalist, were ever his students, to his knowledge.
“If Loyola is really wanting to remove racism, they should remove racists from teaching,” the petition states. The students also sent a letter to university administrators with their demands, complaining Block’s alleged statements justified “segregation by saying ‘no one is compelled to associate with people against their will,'” and that “black people and women deserved to be paid less” because “they are considered ‘less productive,'” according to the Loyola Maroon, the university newspaper.
The students’ campaign to oust the professor provoked Anton Chamberlin, a former business student of Block’s, to begin a counter-petition in his favor. It calls on the university to give the professor a raise for putting up with the campus outrage circus. The online petition to “Give Walter Block a Pay Raise” has received more than 2,500 signatures as of this writing Monday evening.
“To call Dr. Block a racist and a sexist is defamatory to the highest level,” Chamberlin’s counter-petition states. “As compensation for being raked over the coals by many over the last decade, we demand that the wonderful Dr. Walter Block not be fired, but given a RAISE.”
While Block’s comments in the Times have been proven to be misquoted, Block told The Federalist he stands by the other statements students accused him of saying. They are merely framing his words to fit a false left-wing narrative, he said.
Block compared his comments defending the freedom of association to the Colorado Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that a religious baker was free to refuse service to a gay wedding.
“No one should be forced to associate with anyone against their will,” Block said.
On the charges of sexism, Block said he was “not rooting for anyone,” and was merely explaining the findings of his research on socioeconomic income gaps. Married women, Block said, simply take on more housekeeping duties than men, which makes them earn less. Among never-married women and never-married men, there is no gap.
While Block comes under fire from students ripping statements out of context, University President Tania Tetlow has signaled no appetite for caving to mob demands to remove the tenured professor.
“The problem with disciplining somebody based on their research and publications is that we have this principle which can at times be heroic, and at times really get in the way of what we want to achieve, of proclaiming our own values of academic freedom,” Tetlow said during a recent student town hall where she defended her university’s economics chair, according to the Maroon. “How do you tell the difference between what is having ideological diversity between your faculty, which is something we want? Right, we don’t want to only be taught by people with whom we agree because that’s not how we learn, versus ideology which we find hateful and destructive and insulting and undermining to our students.”
Block told The Federalist his door is open to any students wishing to speak with him, but so far none sponsoring the petition have even attempted to approach a conversation.
“They don’t want to talk to me because I’m offensive,” Block said, adding the irony that he actually agrees with the students who proclaim “Black Lives Matter.”
“I think black lives matter. I think all lives matter, And I would go as far as to say I think black lives matter particularly since they are most at risk, most in dire straights, of all such groups,” Block said, going on to argue that “black poverty is a function of black families falling apart and black families falling apart is a result of the welfare system.”
If students protesting for “Black Lives Matter” really want to save black lives, Block said, they’d be protesting big government and the war on drugs.
“The reason they’re in trouble is because of government programs, such as welfare, which breaks up the family, drug prohibition which leads to shoot outs over turf, [and] minimum wage laws which create unemployment against them,” Block said. “If we legalized drugs, we’d save a lot of black lives.”
The longtime professor also issued a warning for younger professors whose ideology falls anywhere right of center. He said they should focus on mundane research projects, such as the price elasticity of bananas, to achieve tenure before diving into hot topics: “My advice to young scholars is, ‘Shut up until you get tenure.'”