TIMING, RELEVANCE, ABSURDITY: I first heard that the UCLA Faculty Senate was considering passing a resolution condemning the battle in Iraq from Prof. Eugene Volokh, and I've been watching the issue closely ever since. As Eugene has pointed out, only a very few members of the UCLA faculty can claim expertise in relevant fields such as international relations or middle eastern history, and an anti-war resolution by the generally non-expert faculty is as irrelevant as such a resolution passed by a labor union.
Of course, irrelevance didn't stop the UCLA faculty from passing such a resolution on Monday. Blind to his lack of credentials, physics professor Karoly Holczer said "The few academic senates in the country are the only organizations who should take a stand on human morals. It's more than our right, it's our obligation." Naturally, not only are professors the most qualified people to comment on the morality of the war, they are the only people qualified. Most of the fighting in Iraq is already over, Saddam's government has been toppled, and the lives of Iraqis have already improved dramatically. So the UCLA Faculty Senate is nearly as irrelevant to the issue as are whiny celebrities, but it has even worse timing. Good job, you make me proud.
For some reason, I'm not at all surprised that the Faculty Senate rules were played fast and loose in order to even establish a quorum. The Daily Bruin article above says:
Faculty began to get restless about an hour into the discussion, and some started asking the moderator if they had reached quorum. John Tucker, chief administrative officer of the senate, replied that they needed one more.
Suddenly, a professor who refused to give his name entered, and Tucker announced quorum had been reached.
The man then marched to the front of the assembly and demanded an official count by the moderator. As suddenly as he had come, he left the room, bringing the count back below 200.
A heated debate ensued, with members yelling at each other over the validity of the now absent man's quorum call.
The entire episode seems surreal to me. The resolution was passed 180 - 7 (with 13 members abstaining? or... not present?). I have no doubt that these professors are talented within their fields (mostly...) but this type of absurdity reminds me why I want to stay out of that ivory tower.
I emailed Eugene about the quote by Holczer above, and he pointed out that it's so absurd that he suspects Holczer either misspoke, or was misquoted. He's probably right, and I'm going to email Prof. Holczer to find out if this is the case.