Talk:John Silber

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A certain someone needs to stop using this page on John Silber to express their biased point of view against him. If this individual does not stop I think I'm going to have to call the neutrality of this article into question. Even if he says strange things and this that are perceived as being anti-homosexual that does not mean he is a "religious zealot." Also I think his past work in desegregating UT-Austin and against the death penalty in Texas demonstrate that he is not the nut job someone wants to portray him as. As for his quotes about hard work by students at a university, I think they are commendable, college students should work harder and I know that 6 hours is about all the fun I can handle so I don't see how it proves anything horrible about him.

People should stop using this wikipedia page to attack John Silber and express a biased point of view. Before I did some editing, this page didn't even mention that he had been the Democratic nominee for governer of MA in 1990 which seems like a fairly major event in his life. Nor did it mention his involvement in Kant scholarship. Not to mention the cruel joke being made at his expense concerning his disability.

Whomever is using this page to attack John Silber ought to stop and attempt to present a more balanced picture of the individual. I assume the individual in question is obviously coming from the standpoint of a gay person who feels slighted by some of John Silber's comments about homosexuality, but that does not entitle them to present a biased picture of a human being in this encyclopedia.

I've made some changes hopefully to make the article NPOV and clean it up. Hopefully it won't be defaced again. As a concession to those who dislike John Silber so much, perhaps we could mention that due to some comments he has made that he is perceived as being "homo-phobic" or something without of course labelling him as a nut or a zealot.


In the discussion concerning John Silber's homophobia, it should be noted that he had a gay son who tragically died from AIDS. Silber is a man of many contradictions. Despite his apparent homophobia, he is generally believed to have had a good, loving relationship with his son.

I don't think that Silber can be fairly characterized as a "religious zealot." Though, he is a man of faith, he is clearly too intellectually sophisticated to be a religious fanatic. On the other hand, he does have strong prejudices on a number of subjects and has not been too shy about expressing them publicly. In general, he seems to be a strong social or cultural conservative, but one who does hold liberal views on such issues as capital punishment (very much against), is a strong supporter of prisoner rehabilitation, and he believes that government has a strong role to play in battling poverty and racism.

Concerning his tenure as president of Boston University, one can find both many strong positive things to say about as well as a number of negative things. He clearly did a great deal to transform Boston University from a somewhat mediocre commuter school into a nationally known research university. Its academic standards greatly improved under Silber's watch, and he was able to bring at least several Nobel Prize winners onto the BU faculty. Those are accomplishments that cannot be easily dismissed. On the other hand, he always tended to be very authoritarian in the manner of his governance of the University, and was often casually and even cruelly dismissive of attempts by both students and faculty to offer input into the governance of BU. I am inclined to think that most of Silber's positive accomplishments at the University came within the first ten or twelve years of his presidency, that he stayed on as president long past the point where, he was on balance, doing the University more good than harm. He undermined the presidency of his handpicked successor, Jon Westling, who abruptly resigned as president after only a few years. And John Silber is directly responsible for the fiasco that occured when the trustees of BU, at Silber's prompting, appointed Dan Goldin, former head of NASA, to succeed Westling.

Basically, John Silber had taken it upon himself to search for a successor to Westling. Since Silber believed himself to have been a great university president, he looked for someone who resembled himself in personality and temperament, and found that in Dan Goldin. The trustees offered the presidency to Goldin and he accepted. As soon as Goldin accepted, he made it clear that he did not want Silber continuing on as university chancellor and that he wanted Silber to vacate his offices at the University's main administration building, and to reduce his role, generally, at the University. In short, Boston University was not big enough for two John Silbers. When the trustees refused to grant these demands, Goldin resigned the presidency without ever actually having started in the position. He was then given an extremely lucrative "golden parachute," without ever actually having done a day's work at BU. Needless to say, this whole episode was extremely embarassing to the University, and has tarnished the University's reputation. In short, Silber seemed to have to undermined some of the good that he had done for the University over the years.

I used to have a biased view of Silber myself but I now realize that he was an extremely intelligent man who offered the University a lot. BU would not be where it is today without him.

"He clearly did a great deal to transform Boston University from a somewhat mediocre commuter school into a nationally known research university" This statement from an unattributed editor is historically inaccurate.

Boston University was not a "somewhat mediocre commuter school" prior to Silber's arrival in 1971. Although BU started out as a commuter school, its transformation to a national research university was the vision of President Case starting in 1951. The construction of West Campus and Warren Towers were part of this strategy. By the late 1960's It was already a well regarded university that drew its students from a large geographic area, with strong representation from Massachusetts, other New England states, New York, PA and the mid-Atlantic states, as well as all parts of the United States. It also had a substantial population of international students. The School for the Arts and the Communications School, as well as others, were nationally known. The notion that it was a commuter school is also a bit misleading. By the late 1960's more than half of the student population was from outside of Massachusetts. There wasn't enough on campus housing, so many out-of-state students living in Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Boston, Cambridge etc., were technically considered commuters. Although BU was never thought of as being of the caliber of an Ivy League school, it was always considered as good as most schools at the next level. In some respects, that is still true today. Parents were proud to say their children attended BU. This is also true for Boston College as well. Both schools have grown and changed dramatically over the years, but they were both quite good to begin with. Mediocre is a subjective term, but one that is inappropriate to describe BU at the point in time when Silber became president. Theprofessor9 (talk) 01:11, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Silber and homophobia[edit]

As a BU alumni, i agree that Silber has made many positive contribution to the university, and it made the school pleasant enough for me to stay for both my bachelor's and master's degrees. However, Silber's conservatism cannot be denied, especially considering his attitude towards gay members of the student population. Despite its liberal population and the prominence of a gay student body, Silber steadfastly refused to include "sexual orientation" in the university's anti-discrimination discalimer. As a result, some students who suffered from homophobic harassment has no recourse inside the university system (harassment of that sort would have to go through Boston PD, which has its own hate crimnes clause). Sexual Orientation was only added to the disclaimer in 2004, after Silber's personal influence declined. In addition, Silber also had a hand in dismantling and banning the gay-straight alliance from BU academy (a private prep school attached to the BU system), although such organizations are relatively commonplace in Massachusetts schools. in reponse to protest, Silber published a rather patronizing response to the BU student newspaper. Thewrefore, i think both the Bua rticle as welkl as this one should reflect these facts.

Refer to this article in the Village Voice for more details:

[1] --Bud 06:07, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

Quick question: How was he the democratic nominee for MA governor and a passionate conservative at the same time? Also, I attended BU and am surprised that there is no mention of the achievements BU made during Silber's tenure. Back in the 1970s, BU was a commuter school that had hardly any name recognition, especially internationally. Now the school is well-known and attracts a lot of talent. Silber had a lot to do with this and it deserves mention.

Being a Democrat does not mean everything. He is anti-abortion, Anti-gay, and almost dictatorial in his management. I have no doubt he was great in the 70s and turned the school into a great university, but It is telling that BU under Silber is the last University in Boston (BC is the other one, but they have religious reasons) that does not have sexual orientation as a non-discriminating category (in other words, until 2004, BU can refuse your acceptance or fire you just for being gay). Silber also almost yanked the morning-after pill from the clinic, but fierce opposition stoped it. --Bud 05:59, 7 April 2006 (UTC)


The paragraph about homophobia is incredibly slanted and looks like it was written by a 13 year old. "Much protests"? Come on now. I'm very much a liberal, but I'm offended that people use this "encyclopedia" as a soap box to publicly rail this guy or that guy when the objective facts just aren't all there.

Also, Boston University has added "sexual orientation" to their non-discrimination clause. Regardless, before this amendment was even passed, any BU student could tell you that the homosexual population on campus is extremely high in comparison to other area schools.


Yeah i know. I added the paragraph, and i stayed in BU for both my BA and my MA. But as my statement in the discussion above, while Silber has done a lot of good to the school in the 70s, the school management was falling apart due to his knack for appoint cronies to the board and his refusal to bend to the increasingly liberal ways of the campus. While yes, there is a large population of the LGBT community in BU, there is no official recognition for them in the anti-discrimination statement (in fact, the statement was only added 18 months ago after Silber's departure). The result of that is that gay stdents cannot confront their abusers within the BU rules, so for example, if another student harass you for bring gay, it is not a offense(aside from the harassment part, but not the dicrimination part). He also decided to remove the gay-straight alliance of the BU academy (a BU affliated private high school) under the pretense of "the gay club is about discussing sex", blantantly ignoring the fact that a) gay students need support in the form of GSAs against harassment, bullying and abuse and b) the fact that Boston school districts has largely embraced gay-straight alliances. Moreover, i am not the only one reporting this, and this is not my personal opinion, given the fact that the Village Voice in New York has covered the subject. Therefore, i find my addition of the article (thanks Pravon for cleaning it up) appropriate.

I think you would find it more appropriate if this article is a glowing account of Silber and all his accomplishments, but this is not a article meant to flatter, but to report the truth. By the way, next time if you are gouing to accuse me of something, sign your damn name.--Bud 07:46, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

I am inclined to think that if John Silber had stepped from the BU presidency back in say 1985 or even as late as 1990 his reputation and place in the history of American higher education would have been much more secure. People would now remember him for the positive things that happened at BU under his watch: its transformation from a mediocre communeter school to a nationally renowned research university, the elevation of academic standards that occurred when Silber was president, the hiring of Nobel Prize winners to the BU faculty. All things that represented very real and significant accomplishments on Silber's part. The negative aspects of his presidency would have, by now, been largely forgotten. However, unfortunately for the sake of his legacy, he didn't resign back then but continued to stay on at BU. So, in addition to all the positive accomplishments that I have mentioned, BU also got cronyism as he filled administrative posts with people better known for their loyalty to Silber than for their competence. BU got the failed presidency of Jon Westling, a man who was handpicked for the job as Silber's successor by John Silber. Almost as soon as Westling took the job, Silber, unable to let go of things, used his new post as chancellor to undermine Westling. Within a few years, Westling was gone. Then Silber returned as acting president of BU while the board of trustees (mostly Silber cronies) undertook a nationwide search for a new president. At Silber's prompting, they found one in Dan Goldin, former head of NASA, who was said to be Silber's match in intelligence and ego. Well, that led to one of the greatest fiascos in BU history, when the two men soon began to butt heads. Goldin resigned the presidency without ever actually starting in the job. But he did get a nice golden parachute for his troubles anyway. In addition as Bud has mentioned, BU also got national embarassment from Silber's occasional homophobic outburts. Apparently, some people don't understand the virtue of making a timely exit. --JimFarm 21:11, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

The repetitive statements in this discussion that Silber transformed a mediocre commuter school into a nationally known research university are opinions that cannot be substantiated, lack historical perspective, and need to stop. In order to transform a "mediocre commuter school" into anything, one would need to start with a "mediocre commuter school" When Silber became president in 1971, such a description did not fit Boston University. By the late 1960s, high school guidance counselors were not referring to BU as mediocre, because it wasn't. It was considered to be a "very good school." It may be viewed as a better "very good school" now, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good school previously. So please, no more comments that Silber took over a "mediocre commuter school." It's not true. Theprofessor9 (talk) 23:56, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

I'm disappointed that there's nothing really about the 1990 campaign, which was a significant moment for him and it's barely mentioned. His shoot-from-the-hip verbal style helped him win the Democratic primary for Governor in an election with significant voter backlash against the Democratic establishment. But he came off as too angry in too many situations (particularly an infamous TV interview with Natalie Jacobson) and ultimately lost the general election to Bill Weld. Rickterp 03:16, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

Accordingly, I've expanded the reference to the 1990 election. I think this is a case where, unless you know more about what happened, you'd really wonder how this man managed to win a Democratic primary for Governor of Massachusetts. I need to source this more, but my memory of this campaign was that it was never really about Silber's policy views at all. Instead, Silber seemed to take on a Howard Beale-like persona and, to the surprise of everyone, it appealed to voters (in the Democratic primary anyway) tired of the Michael Dukakis years and wanting a change. Rickterp 13:59, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

I can write of him as one who took a course on ethics from him spring 1961 at The University of Texas. He was known then as a liberal Democrat; in the fall I would join Young Republicans. I later became a Democrat, but I doubt that either of us fundamentally changed over the years. He was pretty outspoken, especially about capital punishment and a Texas Legislature beholden to oil interests. Now he is often identified with the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

He had a Socratic bent, but this was a class that was not too inclined that way. I regret I was too shy to get in the arguments. One classmate was clearly Republican and they would often go at it. I was surprised to hear this student got an A.

In this course I never heard him talk about homosexuality. I knew I was gay, and if it had been 1971 I would have broached an argument. It occurred to me at the time that this issue might well illustrate a problem with Kant, who said that a moral maxim must be one that can be universally applied without contradiction. This seems safe as a necessary condition, but not as a sufficient one. Yes, if everyone engaged only in homosexual sex it would mean the extinction of the human race. Does everyone have to be exclusively heterosexual? Isn't the world today troubled by overpopulation rather than underpopulation?

There was a rumor at the time that he was an atheist, and I heard it from reasonable people. Then I heard he was active in a church. So much for rumors. Scott Tillinghast, Houston TX 01:30, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

One of the reasons a relative conservative like Silber was able to win the Massachusetts gubernatorial primary in 1990 is because Massachusetts is something of a one-party state ie., almost everyone is a registered Democrat. But that doesn't mean that everyone in the state is a liberal. It just means that many people who would be Republicans, if they lived in Ohio or Pennsylvania, are formally affiliated with the Democratic Party (this probably occurs, in part, because the winner of the general election is almost always a Democrat, and so people want to be able to vote in the Democratic primary, so their voice can actually be heard; a conservative Democrat, Edward King, actually unseated the incumbent Governor, Michael Dukakis, in the 1978 Democratic gubernatorial primary, so Silber was actually the second conservative Democrat to be nominated for Governor of the Bay State in just twelve years). KevinOKeeffe (talk) 03:28, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Kant and Homosexuality[edit]

Clearly his homophobia stems from Kantian ethics. By simple logic, homosexuality cannot be universalized by categorical imperative and is therefore immoral. Furthermore, Kant would say that it is our duty to be heterosexual.

(This comment was posted 24 Nov 206 by user
And this applies to the article on Silber how? Pzavon 03:50, 25 November 2006 (UTC)
Because Silber ia a Kantian. KevinOKeeffe (talk) 03:30, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

I suppose you mean to say that by this logic it is immoral never to have children. Apparently you're not aware that many self-described homosexuals do have children and that, rather ironically, Immanuel Kant did not. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jjjconrad (talkcontribs) 10:35, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

I suppose some homosexual women may be impregnated by sperm from a man, but that is still, at the biological level, an act of heterosexuality, even if it does not include the facet of physical gratification ordinarily associated with human sexuality. As for Kant's childlessness, so what? He'd hardly be the first person to advise others to do something he failed to accomplish. KevinOKeeffe (talk) 03:34, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Comments on Boston University's Guest Policy[edit]

I am seeking other editors' views on the material now given under the heading of "Comments on Boston University's Guest Policy" I removed it once and it has been replaced, with only a change in the title, which was originally something like "Criticism." I thought it was inappropriate in the context of this article, standing alone as it was. It is taken from an old Daily Free Press article. Some but not all of the Freep's quotes from Silber are given, with no context or explanation as to how they fit in an article about Silber. This seems to me to be a subtle means of pushing a point of view.

Am I off-base on this? Pzavon 03:38, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Personally, I dont think it adds much to the article about John Silber. (It would add to the article on BU though). Copysan 06:46, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

invalid external link as only reference[edit]

In edits performed on 22 Dec 2006, added mention of the charge that Silber denied tenure or promotion to facilty members simply because they did not agree with his policies. A link to was provided as a reference. I followed this link and found that the entire website has been "retired" by its sponsors. The reference material that would support this entry is thus no longer available. Without this or another reference this allegation would seem to be unverifiable. I suggest that another supporting reference be provided or the text be removed. Pzavon 04:10, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

I put it there and i was aware the link has been removed. However, before the comment is removed i would like to stress that just because the link (or source) is removed does not make the previous statement untrue. On the other hand, these things (decline of donations because of Silber's comments) are hard to prove one way or the other and many required sources would not be available. If anyone has an alternative i would like to hear it.--Bud 10:37, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

My understanding is that the truth of a statement like this is less inportant to the validity of its inclusion in a Wikipedia article than is the ability to demonstrate through a reference that the allegation has been made in a forum other than Wikipedia. This is part of the concept of "verifiable." Thus, if your "required sources" are not available, the statement ought to be removed. Pzavon 22:45, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

Criticism section?[edit]

I'm struck by how this article tends to become a soapbox for everyone who hates John Silber to add their little piece about why they can't stand him. I don't like him either, but I worry that this article is becoming just a list of everything he's done to anger people through the years. I'd suggest that the article be divided into several sections, including a Criticism section, and that the criticism gets edited down a bit, so it doesn't end up being 75% of the article (which is what it is now). I'll try to tackle this when I get some more time in a few weeks. Rickterp 15:30, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

OK, I've divided the article into sections. This seems like a change that was long overdue. The Criticism section seems long, but I left all the text as is for now. Rickterp 00:49, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

I dont think it should be called "criticism", but more like controversies. Because oif you read the article as it is without division, it also noted that Silber has improved BU as an institution byu hiring high profile and nationally renowned scholars, which even critics cannot deny. While i am certainly no fan of silber, I dont think his contribution to BU should be muted. I will see if i can contribute some time to this article.--Bud 06:54, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

NPOV and other criticisms[edit]

The article is riddled with unsupported statements, some of which are clearly speculation. The negative facts need supporting citations and the editorial opinions and speculation needs to be removed. (Properly sourced expert or community opinions on controversies, well, uh, need proper sourcing.)

The article is also disorganized and some sections are poorly written, either with convoluted sentences, or in a way that makes understanding difficult for "outsiders". Studerby 02:08, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

Article has been tampered with and is now egregious[edit]

What is it with the supporters of John Silber? Do they willfully destroy this article by changing dates (the union recognition controversy from 1979 to 1975, etc.) and mucking up the writing? Who is responsible for the overall edit of this article? This is scandalous.

The fact is, Silber was an awful President who used B.U. for purposes of conversion. He and his cronies took money out of the school to feather their own nests, like it was a corporation to be looted by raiders.

That Silber was a homophobe is doubted by absolutely NO ONE. The man was EXTREMELY NEGATIVE. You aren't hit by vote after vote of noconfidence by deans and faculty, you don't become a national scandal written up by various newspapers outside of New England because you're doing something right. To avoid a "negative" point of view would be to write propaganda. I wonder what the Hitler article is like.

Yes, Hitler killed tens of millions, but shee-it, he got the economy back and humming. And Stalin was so much worse (Using Hitler is unfair in kind and degree, but I'm trying to make a point.)

This man, by running on the Democratic ticket, so alienated normal Democratic voters that a Republican won election in the Commonwealth, the most Democratic of states, for 16 years!!!

I've seen these kind of specious arguments.

This article had supporting articles, etc. that are now stripped, gone.

I've seen articles on Wiki be built up into useful things, but this is undergoing the opposite: from evolution to devolution.

Someone should cobble together the best parts of this, and then this article should be locked down so that the goblins can't destroy it.

Shameful.Fester Bestertester, Esq. 05:05, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

Deletions per BLP[edit]

I have removed a large amount of material from this article that did not cite reliable sources. I realize the subject is a controversial figure, but Wikipedia has a strict policy requiring us to be "very firm about the use of high quality references. Unsourced or poorly sourced contentious material about living persons—whether the material is negative, positive, or just questionable—should be removed immediately and without waiting for discussion, from Wikipedia articles, talk pages, user pages, and project space." See Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons.--agr (talk) 04:19, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

I find your reasons rather dubious. I have examined your version and you have removed most of the controversy section in order to censor Silber's homophobia and other more unsavory views. Those sections are more or less sourced legitimately and referenced. So I have to question your motive. --Bud (talk) 09:36, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

AGR: I have noticed you have reverted my edit. Please be advised that I will repeat to undo your edit until you have answered why new York times, BU press releases, The village voice and Letters from Silber himself are considered improper sources. Your contribution is welcome but I will not allow Silber's homophobia be whitewashed over the excuse of sources. --Bud (talk) 05:45, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps Dr. Silber is not exhibiting some sort of psychiatric pathology ("homophobia"), but rather principled opposition to the socio-political agenda of the homosexual sub-culture? Irrespective of what leftist activists and their supporters may imagine to be the truth, there never-the-less remains more than one side to the question of homosexuality in contemporary American society. KevinOKeeffe (talk) 03:43, 7 January 2009 (UTC)


I am removing some NPOV from this article. The discussion section of this article is not for personal discourse, rather to enhance the knowledge of Mr. Silber as a public figure. All controversial statements should be placed under controversy. Until some metric of homophobia besides Mr. Silber explicitly stating "I am homophobic" exists, perhaps editors should be more tactful in word choice. A law suit cannot be thrown out of court, and to suggest so would be biased in nature.

Jdoelder (talk) 19:06, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Imp. pieces of bio are missing[edit]

At some point, there was information in this article about who he married and number of children they had. For unknown reason, that has been removed and ought not to have been. As I recall, they had three or four daughters and one son. It is also unclear when exactly he obtained the doctoral degree. That is not stated on his vague BU bio. I asked BU about it at some point and they referred all questions about Silber to Silber's office which declined to say when he'd gotten that doctoral degree. That fact and his wife's name and number of kids seems pretty basic. Anyone know how valid source for this info? or why it was deleted? Skywriter (talk) 11:16, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

controversy section removed[edit]

Ambox warning yellow.svg

I have removed material from this article that does not comply with our policy on the biographies of living persons. Biographical material must always be referenced from reliable sources, especially negative material. Negative material that does not comply with that must be immediately removed. Note that the removal does not imply that the information is either true or false.

Please do not reinsert this material unless you can provide reliable citations, and can ensure it is written in a neutral tone. Please review the relevant policies before editing in this regard. Editors should note that failure to follow this policy may result in the removal of editing privileges.--Scott Mac (Doc) 22:18, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

I also tried to copy edit the lead for MOS and NPOV as well. -- (talk) 20:16, 5 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes, seems a bit better, if he was born in austin texas and we have a citation for that then it should go back somewhere if it isn't in the body of the article somewhere. Off2riorob (talk) 20:33, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Scott MacDonald: I have to challenge your deletions. The section on controversies are well sourced, unless the Village Voice and the New York times became supermarket tabloids while i wasnt looking. --Bud (talk) 07:56, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

The user and talk pages of Scott MacDonald have been blanked, apparently by MacDonald, and the "ethics" of Wikipedians attacked as MacDonald said he was walking away from the Wikipedia project. Note also MacDonald's threat Editors should note that failure to follow this policy may result in the removal of editing privileges. Is MacDonald implying here that anyone who disagrees with him will be booted from Wikipedia just as he has booted himself from this Wiki project?

All of the above is bizarre.

Like Bud, I say the blanking of the entire section on Controversies is inappropriate as much of it is well-sourced. The following is the section that MacDonald blanked. That which is well-sourced should be returned to the article. Anyone disagree with this? Skywriter (talk) 20:17, 3 January 2010 (UTC)


Disbanded BU's football team[edit]

Citing financial losses, Silber disbanded the Boston University football team. The underlying reason[citation needed] was to avoid giving sports scholarships to women as mandated by Title IX which requires gender equity in the distribution of scholarship funds. Silber was quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying the University of Paris doesn't have a football team while the magazine noted that B.U. is not the Sorbonne.

Silber was accused of denying tenure to a faculty member for not being in agreement with Silber's views.[1] The resulting lawsuit was thrown out of court and not appealed.[2]

"Sale" of honorary degrees and seats in professional schools[edit]

In the early 1980s, he courted conservative German publisher Axel Springer, the founder and owner of the Axel Springer AG publishing company and publisher of the tabloid newspaper Bild. The most popular newspaper in all of Europe, the conservative Bild was at the forefront of the Cold War-era cultural wars against the Soviet Union and collectivist ideology. Springer, a target of the student radicals of the 1960s who had been denounced by such German intellectuals as Heinrich Böll, was awarded an honorary doctorate from B.U. in 1981.[3].

At the time of Springer's investiture, the primary (independent) student newspaper at B.U., the Daily Free Press, as well as the unofficial student newspaper that had proved a gadfly during the Silber administration (whose staff members were featured on Mike Wallace's January 1980 60 Minutes piece on Silber), the b.u. exposure, obtained and published university documentation about the marketing of honorary degrees. A list of potential honorees had been drawn up, based not on their merit but on their likely propensity to seek public honors and their ability or willingness to pay for it. Prominently mentioned in the documents was independent movie producer Joseph E. Levine, who had been born in Boston. Staff were instructed to make feelers to Levine, with the ultimate award to be on a sliding-scale system depending on his generosity to the university. A seven-figure donation to B.U. would garner the ultimate accolade, an honorary doctorate. (Levine never was awarded a degree from B.U.)

In March 1978, the b.u. exposure also broke the story of the "sale" of seats in the university's law and medical schools. The exposure story revealed that the university had accepted "advanced payments from Law and Medical School applicants as a precondition to admission".

Attack on Faculty[edit]

The Springer doctorate came after a decade long battle that Silber had waged against leftists on the B.U. faculty, which had included vetoing the hiring of Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse and a war of wills with historian Howard Zinn in the Department of Political Science. Silber fired the renowned black journalist, William Worthy, Jr., who served as head of the B.U. African American journalism program, after Worthy spoke out in support of workers who attempted to form a labor union. Silber's actions led to a climate where other notable scholars left B.U. to take positions at other universities, including Fritz Ringer and Henry Giroux. The latter took a position at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and later Pennsylvania State University, prior to his current position at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Historian Fritz Ringer was for eight years the president of the Boston University chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). "Serving at a time when the BU president (Silber) was running roughshod over faculty rights, Fritz Ringer vigorously championed the principles of academic freedom."

In 1975, the Boston University faculty voted to form a union and Silber refused to recognize the union.

Real estate scandal and connections with organized crime[edit]

Contemporaneous with a real estate scandal broken by the Boston Globe, it was claimed that B.U. was buying properties in the Kenmore Square area of Boston from organized crime figures with ties to directors on the B.U. board.[citation needed] These charges resulted in several protests.[citation needed] and possibly contributed to a lower rate of alumni giving.

Allegations of homophobia[edit]

A Village Voice article published in 2002 speculates that Silber's anti-homosexual agenda is bound up with his experience of losing his son, David to AIDS in 1995[4] In a 1992 interview in Newsday, Silber said, "Decent parents don't even discuss [with their children] the possibility that there are homosexuals." [5]

In 2000-2001, Silber upheld a campus-wide guest visitor policy for Boston University's housing that was much stricter than that at area universities. He justified the policy by arguing that lax visitor policies would lead to students bringing "their sexual partners to the room for sessions of fun and games", according to his interview with the Daily Free Press, B.U.'s student newspaper.[6]

In 2002, Silber ordered that a B.U.-affiliated high school Boston University Academy to disband its gay-straight alliance. The alliance was a student club that staged demonstrations against homophobia. Silber dismissed the stated purpose of the club, that of serving as a support group for gay students that also sought to promote tolerance and understanding between gay and straight students. Silber accused the high school club of being a vehicle for "promoting homosexuality".[7] At the time, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts funded gay-straight student clubs in 156 schools.

Silber's order to disband the gay-straight alliance club was highly controversial and engendered a great deal of criticism from the gay, progressive communities, including public condemnation by U.S. Representative Barney Frank in the Daily News.

Though Silber said he had recruited many homosexuals to work at Boston University, Silber also said the university would not agree not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. He said "there are more sexual orientations than just those that involve consenting adults, whether homosexuals or heterosexuals. To refuse to discriminate with regard to these other orientations would require the acceptance and thus the endorsement by Boston University of pedophilia, incest and bestiality. I added that Boston University would definitely discriminate against anyone with these orientations."[8]

The reputation of Boston University and its alumni giving rate[edit]

Silber hired Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow and Elie Wiesel in the School of Theology.

In 2002, U.S. News and World Report ranked B.U. as a "second tier" national university, not in the top 52 institutions. Seventeen Magazine, in its rankings of "The 100 Coolest Colleges", ranked B.U. 72nd.[9]

For at least 30 years, Silber's controversies and his acidulous personality were cited as the root cause of B.U.'s unusually low rate of alumni giving. In 2008, U.S. News and World Report reported that only 6% of B.U. alumni contributed to their alma mater, a low rate for a national university.

Silber's "Deferred Compensation Package"[edit]

On May 10, 2006, the New York Times reported that the trustees of Boston University had given Silber an unprecedented compensation package worth $6.1 million in 2005 [10], which critics contend is more akin to a golden parachute, bonus, or gift given to a corporate chief executive officer. Academic sources say it is three times higher than the normal payout and is the highest such payout in over 30 years. The announcement of Silber's windfall, which was revealed due to tax filings by B.U., reportedly has engendered outrage in the academic community.

Wrongful mass deletion[edit]

The above section was inappropriately deleted en mass by someone who has also blanked his own user and talk pages, and who calls the Wikipedia project unethical. (See his user and talk page history). I intend to revert this deletion except in any area where there is insufficient sourcing. Comments? Skywriter (talk) 20:17, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Please do. I was one of the earlier editors of this article and would like to see my work returned. :) --Bud (talk) 20:46, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

I added a few things back that were obviously well-documented but can not spend more time on this soon. Feel free to add your own material back and anything else reliably sourced.Skywriter (talk) 20:50, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Sent to Request to comment[edit]

Due to the lack of response from parties involved. I am putting this to wider comment. I find Scott MacDonald's implicit threats distasteful and harmful to the process of wiki, and his mass deletion in error. --Bud (talk) 21:35, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Physical disablity[edit]

No mention of Silber's disability? Kasgan (talk) 03:31, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

What disability? If you mean the arm, that is far from a disability, I think, based on accounts of him written by people that encountered or knew him. I really don't think this article is capturing the gist of Silber's career, but I do not know if it can find enough sources on a living person to do so. Biography articles typically rely on post-mortem biographical books. The article portrays Silber as an individualist. Maybe within limitations. I don't think so. For the key to his points of view on campus, perhaps you should do more with an article on Students for a Democratic Society, Weathermen, the Women's Liberation movement, and the like, which Silber opposed and kept off campus by stalwart means. You have to go back to Case, Silber's predecessor, who was a military officer and worked on strategic projects, etc. Who were Silber's associates? He only talks to famous men, so we know they were famous. You need to get back to the '60s', which I am not sure any of you can do. What was going on, on campuses? What, for example, happened at Harvard University? Kent State? What would that have been to Silber? Do you remember that he was on the podium with John Poindexter in national debates? Who was Poindexter anyway, and what was Silber to him or he to Silber? How on earth did THAT association happen? Who knows? Anyone who does should try to find a good source on it. Be forthright and honest. Also, he was always able to get the better of individual opponents at the university. Any ideas on how? Just a tough-minded individual, or perhaps so personally charming that he could win people over? Well, that sure was the age of tough-minded individuals. We regret that some of them, such as at Kent State, were perhaps just a shade too tough-minded. But, I don't want to be too critical here. I note with amusement the high quality of the prose in the discussion, also in the article. You people are way above the level of most WP editors. I guess we just got lucky on this article. Sometimes chance favors the bold. But, you know what, I find two problems with it, quite apart from its failure to grasp the gist of past events. First, who is to define what is negative, hey? I'd like to see you answer THAT one. What is negative? One man's negative is often another's positive. Second, just as with other quasi-notables written about in WP, there is a lack of substantial reference material. Either sycophantic or quetching web sites are not scholarly sources. So, I really have to agree with the editors who want to cut out large parts of this article. Cut it down to a minimum. Let others evaluate Silber after he's gone. We want to say, I think, only who he is, not what or why. I've been through this already with a couple of other quasi-notables. I say quasi because only history can judge true notability and he ain't history. If you say too much or he doesn't like what you say then he or his friends will find ways to make life uncomfortable on WP. Get him off, is my advice.Dave (talk) 04:46, 30 June 2011 (UTC)

WOW - talk about avoiding the question. Kasgan (talk) 04:59, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

What question? One is limited as to what one may say on WP. Any personal opinions, personal experiences, forget it. I was only trying to point you in directions where you might find some material. The article is doing better, by the way. And, I see WP is starting to report on the 1960's. That is a healthy sign, I think. We can face it now, we can talk about it now. If you mean the arm, well, I doubt it is even important enough to be here. I don't see any limitation on his doing the things he wanted to do, but of course I don't know him personally. If I ever saw him, maybe he would just be "the one-armed guy." You know, FDR was confined to a wheel chair. No one thinks much of it as far as I know. I'm not comparing Silber to FDR - far from it - but conditions some people see as disabilities aren't necessarily so. Where I live there is a barrier beach several miles long with a road on it. From time to time I see a guy in a wheelchair barreling along it propelled by his own arms, looking up at the blue sky, smiling. If you can't talk about something, if even bringing it up is followed by suppression, that is a sure sign that something is rotten in Denmark. People in a democracy are accountable. Are we accountable? Yet?Dave (talk) 19:39, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

graduate education?[edit]

The section on Silber's graduate study is vague. He received an M.A. in 1952 from somewhere and gives a reference from a retired professor at UB about Silber as a T.A. at Yale, but doesn't mention if he finished his degrees there or was just a teaching assistant there. It also has Adelphi University at the bottom of the page. Did he attend Adelphi or teach there? Can someone clear this up a bit? Thanks! (talk) 01:04, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ New York Review of Books letter to the editor
  2. ^ McCraken's defense of Silber
  3. ^ Honours of Axel Springer, retrieved 14 March 2008
  4. ^ The Last Candid Man, A Homophobe Hides Behind His Right to Discriminate, by Richard Goldstein, The Village Voice, 15 October 2002
  5. ^ Gay column leads to 475 cancellations by Louis I. Gelfand, Nieman Reports v47, n3 (Fall, 1993):82 (2 pages)
  6. ^ Silber Speaks On The Guest Policy, Daily Free Press, 18 March 2002
  7. ^ Statement from John Silber in Response to Letters Regarding a Gay-Straight Alliance at Boston University Academy
  8. ^ Silber speaks out on non-discrimination stance, Daily Free Press, 12 October 2004
  9. ^ BU receives low marks from U.S. News, Seventeen, The Daily Free Press, 20 September 2002
  10. ^ New York Times, 10 May 2006 'Boston University Gave Ex-Chief $6.1 Million, Officials Disclose'