Sunday, December 26, 2004

Conservative Students Target Liberal Profs

"Traditionally, clashes over academic freedom have pitted politicians or administrators against instructors who wanted to express their opinions and teach as they saw fit. But increasingly, it is students who are invoking academic freedom, claiming biased professors are violating their right to a classroom free from indoctrination.

For example, at the University of North Carolina, three incoming freshmen sued over a reading assignment they said offended their Christian beliefs.

In Colorado and Indiana, a national conservative group publicized student allegations of left-wing bias by professors. Faculty received hate mail and were pictured in mock "wanted" posters; at least one college said teacher received a death threat.

And at Columbia University in New York, a documentary film alleging that teachers intimidate students who support Israel drew the attention of administrators.

The three episodes differ in important ways, but all touch on an issue of growing prominence on college campuses.

In many ways, the trend echoes past campus conflicts — but turns them around. Once, it was liberal campus activists who cited the importance of 'diversity' in pressing their agendas for curriculum change. Now, conservatives have adopted much of the same language in calling for a greater openness to their viewpoints.
To many professors, there's a new and deeply troubling aspect to this latest chapter in the debate over academic freedom: students trying to dictate what they don't want to be taught.

'Even the most contentious or disaffected of students in the '60s or early '70s never really pressed this kind of issue,' said Robert O'Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and now director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.
Leading the movement is the group Students for Academic Freedom, with chapters on 135 campuses and close ties to David Horowitz, a one-time liberal campus activist turned conservative commentator. The group posts student complaints on its Web site about alleged episodes of grading bias and unbalanced, anti-American propaganda by professors — often in classes, such as literature, in which it's off-topic.

Instructors 'need to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion,' Horowitz said. 'You can't get a good education if you're only getting half the story.'

'I feel like (faculty) are so disconnected from students that they do these things and they can just get away with them,' said Kris Wampler, who recently publicly identified himself as one of the students who sued the University of North Carolina. Now a junior, he objected when all incoming students were assigned to read a book about the Quran before they got to campus.
'A lot of students feel like they're being discriminated against,' he said.

'It's often phrased in the language of academic freedom. That's what's so strange about it,' said Ellen Schrecker, a Yeshiva University historian who has written about academic freedom during the McCarthy area. 'What they're saying is, 'We want people to reflect our point of view.''

Horowitz's critics also insist his campaign is getting more attention than it deserves, riling conservative bloggers but attracting little alarm from most students. They insist even most liberal professors give fair grades to conservative students who work hard and support their arguments.

Often, the facts of particular cases are disputed. At Ball State, senior Brett Mock published a detailed account accusing Wolfe of anti-Americanism in a peace studies class and of refusing to tolerate the view that the U.S. invasion of Iraq might have been justified. In a telephone interview, Wolfe vigorously disputed Mock's allegations. He provided copies of a letter of support from other students in the class, and from the provost saying she had found nothing wrong with the course.

Horowitz, who has also criticized Ball State's program, had little sympathy when asked if Wolfe deserved to get hate e-mails from strangers.

'These people are such sissies,' he said. 'I get hate mail every single day. What can I do about it? It's called the Internet.'"

(AP, via RawStory).

No surprise that this is an operation backed by David Horowitz, an arrogant, intellectually dishonest weenie who continues to blaze the trail for well-to-do, middle-aged white guys who just can't catch a break in George Bush's America. While I find the whole mess to be a reprehensible waste of time, part of me would like this to go all the way to the Supremes to watch David Souter and John Paul Stevens crush their argument into fine powder.

Wampler, by the way, seems to be doing quite nicely. He's now a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, and was given a $5,000 scholarship via the Ronald Reagan Future Leaders Scholarship Program sponsored by the Phillips Foundation earlier this year. One assumes he has been successful over the past few years avoiding any and all exposure to points of view that he knows he would hate anyways. And, as blog-IT-o ergo sum noted last month, he is active in student politics as well, making college campuses safe for guys with affiliations to the John Birch Society.


Blogger Dee said...

I knew it... the US has gone completely crazy!

11:37 AM  

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