Why a prominent academic was rejected from the National Council on the Humanities

February 26, 2014

Getting into government is probably trickier than in the past. When the Obama White House requested that I serve on the National Council on the Humanities, I agreed to have my name put forward. I went through the lengthy FBI check, including repeated probing of friends about my nonexistent drug use.

But in the end the White House decided not to move my nomination forward. There were two reasons. First, taxes. In 2009 and 2010, the years of my divorce, I filed my taxes late — four weeks and 10 days, respectively. Second, I was not willing to commit to never criticizing the administration, nor to restricting my publishing agenda to topics that were unlikely to be controversial. There is just no point trying to be a public intellectual if you can’t speak your mind. This requirement was conveyed and discussed through phone calls; I have no written record to prove it. But that was how it went.

The quote is from Danielle Allen, a prominent political theorist and classicist and winner of a MacArthur “genius grant.” She also delivered the Aims of Education address my second year of college, a few days after Sept. 11, 2001. The link is via Tyler Cowen.

Will Baude is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where he teaches constitutional law and federal courts. His recent articles include Rethinking the Federal Eminent Domain Power, (Yale Law Journal, 2013), and Beyond DOMA: State Choice of Law in Federal Statutes, (Stanford Law Review, 2012).
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