Those delicate Jesuit sensibilities

November 12, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA | LAURA VOZZELLA,laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

An economics professor from Loyola University in New Orleans traveled to Baltimore's Loyola last week to give a lecture, and everybody's been apologizing ever since.

Everybody, that is, but the professor, Walter Block, who chalks up the flap to political correctness.

Block said he knew he'd step on toes, since, by his account, he started off with a bit about how the Jesuit order has been "hijacked by a bunch of Marxists and liberation theologians."

"I imagine that didn't go down too well with the Jesuit audience," he later told me by phone.

The various apologies issued around campus - one from the college's economics department, another from President Brian Linnane - were offered not to allegedly lefty priests, but to women and African-Americans.

"Professor Block's response to a question about the differences between average earnings of African-Americans and whites in America, which maintained that the disparity could be explained by differences in average productivity, was offensive, and we are sincerely sorry for it," read a letter from the economics faculty and the Adam Smith Society.

"Professor Block's remarks also included offensive comments regarding the source of wage disparities between men and women. We are deeply sorry for these remarks and the harm they have caused."

College officials have declined to elaborate on just what Block said. Apparently it was so offensive that they can't even bear to say why they're offended.

But on the phone with me, Block filled in the hot-button blank: "Sociobiology."

He said he'd told the audience that differences in IQ might account for why blacks and women earn about 30 percent less than their white, male counterparts.

Yikes! What in the name of Larry Summers was he thinking?

Block said there's research to back up that theory, noting the controversial book The Bell Curve. He offered a little consolation for women, saying they aggregate in the middle of the IQ scale, while men are the outliers. That's why, he said, men dominate the ranks of both prisoners and Nobel laureates. "Nobel Prize winners in hard sciences," he added, "not the wussy stuff like poetry."

Block said no one pulled him aside after the lecture to express dismay. He said he'd gotten applause. But days later, a student forwarded the e-mailed apology from President Linnane.

"We are a Jesuit institution, and as such, a respect for diversity is one of our defining values," it said.

Said Block: "They respect diversity but not diversity of opinion."

Money to spend

It's probably not on his resume, but long before Shaun Adamec became spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, he was sidekick to an Internet millionaire.

Adamec shed some light on himself the other night as a performer in The Stoop storytelling series at Center Stage. (The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz attended and filled me in.)

When he was a student at Providence College in Rhode Island, Adamec said, he had a computer-geek friend, Chris. It was the height of the dot-com boom. Chris' company went public. His net worth ballooned to $12 million.

"As any young, single multimillionaire - overnight - he needed someone to help him spend his money," Adamec said. "And I was going to be that friend."

Adamec never used his friend's last name in the show and wasn't giving it out yesterday, but he did say that the company was Akamai Technologies and that "they basically invented live Web streaming."

In any case, the newly rich Chris bought a movie theater. Adamec ran it for him.

Chris bought an airplane and flew to Cape Cod, New Hampshire and Manhattan for lunch. Adamec tagged along. Until they got caught in a storm and barely made it home. They never flew together after that.

Eventually the dot-com bust came along, and Chris lost the job, plane and theater. Chris has since recovered financially. And we all know where Adamec wound up.

Adamec told his story months after his wife, Elizabeth Adamec, took her turn on The Stoop. Her tale was about how her family got into a brawl in the back room of a hotel one New Year's Eve. Police were called.

Have those unruly in-laws, or that stint as an Internet millionaire's BFF, prepared Adamec in any way for his current job?

"I suppose to expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything," he said. "Comes in handy in the world of politics."

Connect the dots

So that's what a lieutenant governor does! Anthony Brown tries out Maryland's official state exercise - walking - at the state office building on West Preston Street this morning. State Health Secretary John Colmers, General Services Secretary Alvin Collins and Del. Shawn Tarrant will join Brown on this adventure. ... The longest-suffering John McCainiac in Maryland has put himself in the loser column, along with former Del. Carmen Amedori. "The longtime McCain cheerleaders have nothing but worthless photos, autographs and memories to show for their nine years of support for the GOP nominee," former Del. Don Murphy said. ... Audrey Hosford of Annapolis appears tonight on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. Top prize: $75,000.

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