Downs, Donald Alexander 1948–
Downs, Donald Alexander 1948–
(Donald A. Downs)
Born December 2, 1948, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; immigrated to United States, 1949, naturalized citizen, 1949; son of Donald Alexander (a businessman) and Mary Jane (a homemaker) Downs; married Susan Yeager, January 21, 1971; children: Jacqueline Marie, Alexander Donald. Education: Cornell University, B.A., 1971; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, M.A., 1974; University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1983.
Political scientist, educator, and writer. Canterbury Carpets and Oakland Glassworks, Berkeley, CA, salesman, 1974-75; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, visiting lecturer in political science, 1980; University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, assistant professor of political science, 1981-85; University of Wisconsin—Madison, assistant professor of political science, 1985-89; associate professor of political science, 1989-95, professor of political science, 1995—; University of Wisconsin, affiliate professor of law, journalism and mass communications, 1997—, Hawkins Professorship in political science, 1999-2005, legal studies program and Center for the Law, Society, and Justice, director, 2004-07, Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy, cofounder and codirector, 2006—.
Edward S. Corwin Award from American Political Science Association, 1984, for "Freedom, Community, and the First Amendment: The Skokie Case and the Limits of Speech"; Anisfield-Wolfe Book Award, 1986, for Nazis in Skokie; Distinguished Teaching award, University of Wisconsin, 1989; Gladys Krammerer Award, American Political Science Association, 1990, for The New Politics of Pornography; Vilas Research award, University of Wisconsin, 1993-96; Peter Shaw Memorial Award, American Association of Scholars, 2006; Bradley Foundation fellow, 2004—; Independent Institute fellow.
Nazis in Skokie: Freedom, Community, and the First Amendment, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1985.
The New Politics of Pornography, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.
More than Victims: Battered Women, the Syndrome Society, and the Law, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.
Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
Author of "Personal View," a column in Evansville Press. Contributor to Notre Dame Law Review.
Donald Alexander Downs once told CA: "My work is animated by the desire to resolve or at least address the conflicts between liberty and community integrity, individual freedom and public value. Important free speech controversies exemplify this theoretical, normative, and political issue. I am also interested in political struggles and human motivation and psychology, and the ways in which these matters relate to the law.
"I was drawn to the Skokie case (where a Chicago-based Nazi group was initially prevented from demonstrating in a town with many Holocaust survivors as residents) because it entailed the conflict of legitimate principles in a stark and fascinating fashion, and I was most interested in the dynamics of motivation that drove the principal actors in the major groups involved. Consequently, Nazis in Skokie: Freedom, Community, and the First Amendment consists of both legal analysis and in-depth empirical work that probes the attitudes, motives, and actions of the participants, especially the survivors. The book's combination of theoretical analysis and empirical, psychological detail make it unusual, if not unique, in the field of public law."
In his 1996 book, More than Victims: Battered Women, the Syndrome Society, and the Law, Downs analyzes the problems associated with the use of battered-women syndrome as a legal defense. In the process, he presents evidence that the logic associated with this syndrome can actually harm the women who are being tried. "Downs is scrupulously fair in presenting the ideas of his adversaries and allies, and he understands the original benefits of the B.W.S. [battered-women syndrome] defense," noted Linda Gordon in the Nation. Calling More than Victims "an eloquent and elucidating book," Psychiatric Services contributor Margaret Jensvold went on to note in the same review: "With sharp clarity, Downs cuts through much murky territory and gets to the quick: that it is very important to be sensitive to the needs and experiences of persons who experience battering, but that relying on syndromal reasoning in defending women who defend themselves against battering has negative consequences. Furthermore, better legal arguments are available."
Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University explores the long-term impact of a semi-violent demonstration by the Cornell University campus's Afro-American Society, whose members marched brandishing rifles and shouting threatening slogans. "With the students justifying their militancy in the name of racial justice, the university chose to appease rather than discipline them," wrote Ying Ma in a review of Cornell '69 in the American Enterprise. The author looks at the origins of the demonstration and goes on to note how similar demonstrations took place in campus across the United States at the height of American liberalism on college campuses. According to the author, who was an undergraduate at Cornell at the time, these demonstrations turned out to be a harbinger of debates still going on concerning the meaning of the university in American society. In the process, he asks numerous questions concerning racial justice and intellectual freedom, limits in teaching identity politics, and the meaning of the university in a democratic management of public affairs. Samuel K. Gove wrote in Perspectives on Political Science that Cornell '69 is "a fine addition to the literature on the history and politics of higher education," adding: "It should interest everyone in the academic community."
Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, published in 2005, examines the growing lack of free speech, due process, and other civil liberties created by speech codes on American university campuses. Presenting four case studies from the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Wisconsin, the author also uses his own experience as a longtime academic to argue his case that policies restricting academic freedom and civil liberty do not promote equal respect and tolerance of diversity but are actually divisive. Furthermore, he argues that such policies compromise the exchange of ideas essential to seeking out truth and imparting a meaningful education. "Orthodoxies of any kind are dangerous to the mission of the university, which is to produce new knowledge through critical examination, contested interpretation, and wide exploration," wrote Joan Wallach Scott on the American Association of University Professors Web site. "Downs's book demonstrates the need for action against orthodoxy,"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Enterprise, November, 1999, Ying Ma, review of Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University, p. 78.
American Political Science Review, December, 1999, Patricia O'Brien, review of More than Victims: Battered Women, the Syndrome Society, and the Law, p. 974.
Criminal Justice Ethics, winter, 1998, Holly Maguigan, review of More than Victims, p. 50.
Futurist, January-February, 2006, review of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, p. 53.
Nation, March 24, 1997, Linda Gordon, review of More than Victims, p. 25.
New York Times Book Review, April 7, 1985, Hal Goodman, review of Nazis in Skokie: Freedom, Community, and the First Amendment, p. 15.
Perspectives on Political Science, winter, 2000, Samuel K. Gove, review of Cornell '69, p. 41.
Political Science Quarterly, summer, 2006, Mark Kemper, review of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, p. 352.
Psychiatry Services, May, 1998, Margaret Jensvold, review of More than Victims, pp. 706-707.
Publishers Weekly, October 7, 1996, review of More than Victims, p. 55.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus.
University Business, October, 2005, Jean Marie Angelo, review of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, p. 19.
University of Wisconsin, Department of Political Science Web site,http://www.polisci.wisc.edu/ (April 2, 2008), faculty profile of author.