In this issue:
The 2004 AAUP Annual Meeting
Academe, January/February 2004
A statement issued by the AAUP's Committee A, March 2004
the “Academic Bill of Rights”
From the Illinois Academe, Spring 2004
Visit the state conference web site at www.mnaaup.org for contact information, useful links to other sites, and information on membership and events!
The AAUP held its annual meeting June 10-13 2004 at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington D.C. in the shadow of funeral proceedings for ex-President Ronald Reagan. On Thursday, June 10, AAUP members paid visits to members of congress as part of Capital Hill Day, moving between the House Office Building and the Senate Office Building in blistering heat as thousands waited in line to enter the capital rotunda where Reagan lay in state.
A major aspect of the meeting was celebration of the service of Mary Burgan, stepping down as general secretary after ten years of service to the AAUP. Speakers in each session reflected on the years of her service and a recognition banquet was held on June 12.
Among the featured speakers at the meeting was Robert O'Neil, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. His lunch-time talk, "Academic Freedom and National Security," was a high point of the meeting, energizing the assembled members. During the luncheon, the Georgina Smith Award was presented to Linda Backus of the University of Vermont and Margaret Quan of Diablo Valley College. This award is given to recognize exceptional leadership in improving the status of academic women, academic collective bargaining, and the profession in general.
Other speakers included Wendy Wassyng Roworth of the University of Rhode Island who lead a panel discussion on the topic of art, religion and censorship on campus, Benjamin Baez of Georgia State University who chaired a panel on minority serving institutions, and Debra Castillo of Cornell University, who gave a keynote luncheon address on “The trouble with tenure”.
The meeting business session included consideration of the report of Committee A and made recommendations regarding the AAUP's censure list. After considerable debate in many cases, the assembly concurred in the statements of Committee A, recommending the imposition of censure on the administration of Philander Smith College (Arkansas) and a deferral of any action against the administration of Medaille College (New York). The assembly also agreed with the recommendations of Committee A to remove the following institutions from the Association's list of censured administrations: Amarillo College (Texas), Houston Baptist University (Texas), and Mount Marty College (South Dakota).TOP
Plans are well underway for the next annual meeting of the Minnesota Conference of AAUP, to be held February 1, 2005 on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The keynote speaker of the meeting will be the new General Secretary of AAUP, Roger Bowen.
Roger W. Bowen took office as General Secretary of the American Association of University Professors in July 2004. Prior to coming to Washington, he served as President/CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum. From 1996 to 2001 Bowen was President of the State University of New York at New Paltz. Formerly he served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of International Affairs at Hollins College. In spring 1996 he was in residence at the Center for the Humanities and Public Policy (University of Virginia) as a Research Fellow. Prior to his time in Virginia, he held several administrative positions at Colby College in Maine, including Director of East Asian Studies, Director of Black Studies, Director of Colby-in-Cork (Ireland), and Professor and Chair of the Department of Government. Since 1981 he has been an Associate in Research at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University.
Bowen earned his B.A. at Wabash College (Indiana) in 1969, and a master’s degree at the University of Michigan in 1970. He completed his doctoral degree in political science from the University of British Columbia in 1977 and was awarded a Ministry of Education (Japan) Post-Doctoral Fellowship.
Please join us at 4:30 at the University of Minnesota Campus Club, 4th floor of Coffman Union for Dr. Bowen’s talk, bestowing of the Sloan Award, other business, and conversation with colleagues from around the state.TOP
Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure has completed its second full year of service to the Minnesota State AAUP Conference and the Minnesota professoriate. Committee members are Professors George Chu (Music, Hamline University), Paul Schons (Modern and Classical Languages, University of St. Thomas), and serving as Chair, Wayne Wolsey (Chemistry, Macalester).
We were consulted by Faculty at a number of Minnesota institutions of higher education for advice. Referral to an attorney with experience in higher education was made as appropriate. Some cases were discussed informally with a member of the national AAUP Committee A or the AAUP office in Washington, DC. We try to work with the local AAUP chapter, if possible.
The cases with which we were involved include the following. Details are sketchy because of personnel and confidentiality issues.
I. A professor up for tenure shortly after arrival of a new key administrator, who set new standards, received a negative decision. He filed a grievance and a member of Committee A attended the hearing as an advisor/observer. The grievance committee recommended that he be given a second chance to go through the tenure review process. The President agreed with this recommendation.
II. A carry-over case from 2002-2003 at the University of Minnesota involving uniformity of tenure standards in all units of the University came before us again. In our previous correspondence with the President, he reversed his initial decision and followed the recommendations of a review committee. The professor contacted us about the long delay (from February to July) in the promised “final decision.” We reminded the President that timeliness is part of due process. A subsequent negative decision was transmitted.
III. A case of sanctions to a Faculty member came from an individual. The institution’s administrators had effectively sequestered the Faculty member when on campus and set hours for being on campus as well as an expected schedule. We wrote the President about apparent violations of academic freedom and due process. A grievance was filed, with negative results. The case was sent to the national AAUP office. A letter from the President effectively stated that this case was a “personnel issue.” The Faculty member has taken a position at another institution.
IV. A Faculty member approached us after being told that she was placed on Administrative Leave during the course of the Spring Semester, after some colleagues complained that she had created a “hostile environment.” The Dean told her that she was banned from campus and was not to communicate with any other faculty members. Committee A was perturbed about issues of academic freedom, due process, and censorship. The management of the “investigation” was delegated to the Human Resources Office. National AAUP said that she should not be expected to respond to any allegations until a written statement had been delivered. Committee A member(s) were present at three meetings with various Administrators. The President admitted that some institutional policies had not been followed and some of the sanctions were rescinded. Following the investigation, the Dean said that this untenured (but in position for over 15 years) Faculty member could not return to her original position, but could transfer to a parallel unit. A grievance was filed, which went into mediation.
V. We have been asked to give an opinion on a case at North Dakota State University. This case is still being reviewed.
An interesting situation was presented during the summer. A writer for the Minnesota Family Council newsletter contacted the Committee Chair for an AAUP response to the
“Academic Bill of Rights.” A phone interview took place, but the article has not yet appeared.
Wayne C. Wolsey, Chair Committee A on Academic Freedom and TenureTOP
The State conference legal defense fund is available to members or chapters who have exhausted local remedies and college or university grievance policies, have worked with Committee A and are in need of legal counsel. To apply for a grant of up to $1000 from the legal defense fund, individuals should contact the Minnesota Committee A Chairperson, Wayne Wolsey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Departments and Institutions may contact the conference president, Michael Livingston at email@example.com.TOP
Academic Freedom and the Nation
Reprints from Academe, committee reports, and State Newsletters
The debate on “academic bills of rights” may be coming to a college or university near you. Collected here in our fall Feature Section are articles and reports that address this important issue.
Press Release, AAUP 12/1/03
Washington, D.C.—The AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure today released a statement condemning as a threat to academic freedom "academic bills of rights" that would require colleges and universities to maintain political pluralism and diversity. Such a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 108th Congress, and similar language appears in a proposed amendment to Article I of Title 23 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.
While the committee agrees with sponsors of the proposed legislation that "no political, ideological, or religious orthodoxy should be imposed on professors and researchers through the hiring or tenure or termination process," it condemns the legislation for threatening to impose administrative and legislative oversight on the professional judgment of faculty. The community of scholars must be free to determine the quality of scholarship and teaching and to assess alleged violations of professional standards.
"Committee A deplores the efforts of supporters of the Academic Bill of Rights, who are engaged in a duplicitous game: to undermine the very foundations of academic freedom (which rests on the autonomy and self-governance of faculties) in the name of protecting it," says Joan Wallach Scott, professor of history at the Institute for Advanced Study and the chair of the committee.
The standards of the academic profession as interpreted and applied by college and university faculty, not political standards embraced by politicians, must govern academic decisions. Academic freedom can only be maintained so long as faculty remain autonomous and self-governing.
By repudiating the principle that it is the responsibility of the professoriate, in cooperation with college and university administrative officers, to ensure compliance with professional standards, the proposed legislation contradicts academic freedom as it has been advanced in standards and practices which the AAUP has long endorsed.
Committee A's statement appears on the AAUP Web site, and will be published in the January-February issue of the Association's magazine, Academe. For more information, contact AAUP staff member Jonathan Knight, (202) 737-5900, extension 3023.
A statement issued by the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure
Advertisements have appeared in the campus press by an organization, "Students for Academic Freedom," calling on students to report professors who try to "impose their political opinions" in the classroom. This is not the first time that self-appointed watchdogs of classroom utterances have focused on the professoriate: The John Birch Society undertook that role in the 1960s, an organization called "Accuracy in Academia" did so in the 1980s, and "Campus Watch" assumed that role for professors of Middle Eastern studies after September 11, 2001. What is different is that this organization purports to rely on AAUP principles in condemning the introduction of "controversial matter having no relation to the subject" and to take upon itself the mission of defining what is in and out of bounds.
The AAUP has long maintained that instructors should avoid the persistent intrusion of matter, controversial or not, that has no bearing on the subject of instruction. Any such practice would be expected to be taken up as part of the regular evaluations of teaching routinely conducted in higher education, evaluations that commonly include surveys of student experience.
The advertised call goes well beyond a concern for poor pedagogy, however. It rests on a right, claimed in the name of academic freedom, not to be confronted with controversy in the classroom—not, at least, beyond what the organization conceives of as germane to the subject as defined by it. The project's stated purpose, as its ad puts it, is to rule out of bounds any reference to the war in Iraq in a course whose "subject" is not the war in Iraq, or statements about George W. Bush in a course that is not about "contemporary American presidents, presidential administrations or some similar subject."
Controversy is often at the heart of instruction; good teaching is often served by referring to contemporary controversies even if only to stimulate student interest and debate. If these watchdogs have their way, a professor of classics, history, ethics, or even museum administration could make no reference to the Iraq conflict or to George Bush—in their courses on the Roman Empire, colonialism, the morality of war, or trade in the artifacts of ancient civilizations—because the "subject" of these courses is not this war or this president. Contrary to defending academic freedom, the project is inimical to it and, indeed, to the very idea of liberal education.TOP
By John K. Wilson
Reprinted from Illinois Academe, Spring 2004TOP
In the latest installment of the culture wars, right-wing activist David Horowitz has written his own declaration of independence from political correctness: the “Academic Bill of Rights.” Introduced as legislation in Congress on October 21, 2003 and proposed for several state legislatures, Horowitz’s manifesto is the first stage in a carefully planned assault on academia. The American Association of University Professors called it “a grave threat to fundamental principles of academic freedom.” Yet both the media and the politicians have overlooked the serious flaws in Horowitz’s studies of alleged bias in higher education, and his own statements proposing to sharply narrow academic freedom.
In 2002, Horowitz launched his “Campaign for Fairness and Inclusion in Higher Education” with the slogan, “You Can’t Get a Good Education If They’re Only Telling You Half the Story.” Horowitz demanded that administrators “conduct an inquiry into political bias in the hiring process for faculty and administrators” and the selection of commencement speakers and allocation of student fees. Horowitz also demanded that universities “adopt a code of conduct for faculty that ensures that classrooms will welcome diverse viewpoints and not be used for political indoctrination, which is a violation of students’ academic freedom.” While much of Horowitz’s crusade against American colleges has been ignored, the “Academic Bill of Rights” has proven popular with Horowitz’s allies in the Republican Party.
On October 29, 2003 the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the alleged lack of “intellectual diversity” in American colleges. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Secretary of Education for George Bush Sr., worried that “We’ve created in our country these wonderful colleges and universities with enormous freedom, yet on those campuses, too often all the discussion and thought goes one way. You’re not honored and celebrated for having a different point of view.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) declared, “There is a tremendous gap, a gulf between faculty on most of our college campuses and the mainstream American values.”
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) chaired the hearing, and plans other hearings on the alleged political bias of history textbooks and accreditation agencies. Echoing Horowitz’s famous phrase, Gregg proclaimed, “How can students be liberally educated if they are only receiving part of the story?”
Arguing that college survey courses are being “squeezed out for trendy pet courses,” Gregg wants to dictate curricula. Earlier in 2003, Gregg introduced the Higher Education for Freedom Act (S.1515), which orders the Senate to “establish and strengthen postsecondary programs and courses in the subjects of traditional American history, free institutions, and Western civilization.”
Horowitz has made even greater inroads in the House of Representatives. At an October 21, 2003 press conference, Horowitz’s employees and student supporters stood with Republican leaders in Congress to introduce the “Academic Bill of Rights” as legislation. The bill, copied word-for-word from Horowitz’s text, proclaims “the sense of the Congress that American colleges and universities should adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to secure the intellectual independence of faculty members and students and to protect the principle of intellectual diversity.”
In June 2003, according to The Hill, Horowitz met with Kingston, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), and Kingston began drafting the bill. Horowitz also met with Majority Whip (and former college president) Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Kingston’s bill has at least 19 co-sponsors so far, and with the powerful support of DeLay (the man who once blamed school shootings on the teaching of evolution) and the lack of Democratic opposition, it has a strong chance to be passed by Congress.
The Biased Research Behind the Academic Bill of Rights
Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights” is based upon a series of deeply flawed studies cited by him and his supporters. According to Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the head of the House Republican Conference and chief sponsor of Horowitz’s bill, “At almost every American university, conservative professors are drastically outnumbered. And the number of liberal guest speakers outnumbers the number of conservative guest speakers by a margin greater than 10-1, limiting the opportunities for conservatives or anyone else who does not sing from the same liberal songbook.”
In fact, no one has ever done a study of the ideological views of guest speakers at any American college, but the “10-1 margin” is an almost mystical number to Horowitz and his supporters. Left-wing commencement speakers supposedly outnumber conservatives at elite colleges by a “10-1” margin according to Horowitz (counting as left-wingers Ted Koppel, Jim Lehrer, Cokie Roberts, Bob Woodward, Thomas Friedman, Judy Woodruff, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Claire Shipman, Charlie Rose, Keith Obermann, Scott Turow, David McCullough, Stephen Carter, Kofi Annan, Doris Goodwin, Steven Bochco, Henry Winkler, Steve Wozniak, and former Republican governor Lowell Weicker). Horowitz also routinely (and falsely) asserts that Democratic college professors outnumber Republicans by this “10-1” margin.
Kingston’s press release makes the claim that “some of America’s finest institutions of higher learning have no conservatives on staff,” a whopper of a tale that even Horowitz has never asserted. According to Rep. Kingston, “Most students probably graduate without ever having a class taught by a professor with a conservative viewpoint.”
Co-sponsor Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) issued a press release that declared, “Statistics have shown that while campus funds are available for distribution to all on-campus organizations, funding is doled out to organizations with leftist agendas by a ratio of 50:1. Such biased financing results in a deluge of liberal speakers being invited to step up to their soapboxes far more often than those with a conservative bent.” This claim, like others made by Horowitz, is utterly false (Horowitz doesn’t even have a badly-designed study to support it, it’s simply his guess). There has been no accurate study of funding for campus speakers, and the notion that groups with “leftist agendas” receive 50 times as much funding as anyone else is nonsense. Repeating the mantra of David Horowitz, Rep. Jones declared, “This legislation is needed because you cannot get a good education only hearing one side of the story.”
Horowitz’s false statistics about academia are repeated over and over again in the media. The Wall Street Journal (9/19/03) declared in an editorial about his ideas, “Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 10-to-1 margin in a recent study of political affiliation at 32 leading American universities.” A Chronicle of Higher Education report (2/13/04) claimed that Horowitz “has conducted studies finding that at 32 universities he deemed ‘elite,’ Democratic professors and administrators outnumbered Republican colleagues by a ratio of more than 10 to 1.”
What Horowitz’s “studies” examined was a small proportion of faculty at elite colleges, looking only at the voter registration of professors in fields such as Economics, History, English, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology. Horowitz intentionally selects the departments that he thinks have the most Democrats in order to distort the results, and his website advises students about which departments to investigate in order to provide the most deceptive figures. His researchers found that less than half of faculty in these departments could be identified as registered Democrats, along with a small number of registered Republicans, from which Horowitz creatively reports his deceptive 10-to-1 claims.
Take Harvard University as an example. Horowitz’s researchers looked at a couple hundred professors in a handful of departments, and found 77 registered Democrats, 11 registered Republicans, and 127 whose registration couldn’t be determined. But consider this: Harvard in the fall of 2002 had 1,997 faculty (plus 428 medical faculty). The 77 Democrats identified by Horowitz are less than 4% of the total. Horowitz has no idea about the party affiliation of the 127 faculty who couldn’t be identified, and no clue about the 1,780 faculty he never examined (including 208 faculty in Harvard’s business school, which is hardly a center of Marxist ideology). Horowitz doesn’t know how 95% of faculty at Harvard vote, and because of his biased sample, he has no basis to say anything about them. Horowitz’s studies only identify the political affiliation of fewer than half of the faculty in a small number of departments. Faculty who don’t bother to register to vote are probably not politically active members of the thought police, so Horowitz’s omission of them is a significant bias in his studies.
Horowitz’s supporters cannot be completely blamed for wrongly asserting that these surveys cover all faculty, because Horowitz is the source of this falsification. Horowitz’s own writings quickly omit all of the necessary qualifications on these studies. Horowitz wrote on his website (9/3/03) about “a study conducted of 32 elite colleges by our researcher Andrew Jones which found that registered Democrats on these college faculties outnumber Republicans by 10-1.” In another article about his studies of selected departments, Horowitz also pretended that he had studied the entire faculty: “Two reports recently released by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture reveal that 93.6% of the faculty at Colorado University (Boulder) and 98% of the faculty at Denver University who registered in political primaries were Democrats, a distribution that clearly suggest a bias in the system of training and hiring academic faculty. A previous report by the Center showed that the average ratio of Democrats to Republicans on 32 elite colleges was 10 to 1 and in some schools was as high as 30-1.” Horowitz routinely claims that these highly selective “surveys” are studies of all faculty at a college, even though he has never conducted a scientific survey using basic random sampling techniques at any college.
Of course, it is probably true that Democrats outnumber Republicans among college professors, albeit not nearly to the extent that Horowitz claims. UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute surveyed full-time college faculty and found that in 2001-02, 5.3% called themselves “far left,” 42.3% “liberal,” 34.3% “middle of the road,” 17.7% “conservative,” and 0.3% “far right.” It’s not an equal balance of ideology, but the fact that 52.3% of college faculty are centrist or conservative suggests serious flaws in Horowitz’s claims.
But Horowitz offers no evidence at all of systemic discrimination against Republicans. He doesn’t, for example, compare the political affiliations of new Ph.D.s applying for jobs and those hired in a field. Party affiliation and ideology don’t always match (Democrat John Silber, president of Boston University, is one of the most conservative academics in the country), and there are many reasons why academics may tend to be Democrats. Most academics, especially at elite universities, live in heavily Democratic urban areas, and in many areas you have to register as a Democrat to have a meaningful vote in local politics. Some professors may be Democrats out of self-interest, because Democrats typically support greater funding for higher education.
But the most obvious reason for any political imbalance in academia is that well-educated Republicans generally are not interested in spending years getting a Ph.D. in order to qualify for a small number of low-paying jobs, a problem that is worse in the humanities and the social sciences where Horowitz claims to see the greatest discrepancies. More funding for higher education, if it led to more tenure-track jobs and better faculty pay, would attract more Republicans into academia and cause more professors to become Republicans as they grew wealthier. But Horowitz’s goal is not simply to increase the number of Republicans teaching Shakespeare; Horowitz’s explicit aim is to silence and intimidate the “left-wing ideologues” on college campuses.
Horowitz’s Attack on Academic Freedom
Horowitz’s interpretation of what should be banned on college campuses goes far beyond any mainstream concept of academic freedom. In a Sept. 30, 2003 speech in Denver, Horowitz declared that he was appalled to find anti-Bush views expressed on the office doors of some faculty in town. The Denver Post (10/1/03) reported how Horowitz explained in a speech that the purpose of the Academic Bill of Rights is to ban professors from expressing their political views in the classrooms or their own offices. According to Horowitz, “There were hostile cartoons aimed at Republicans and conservatives. How does that make conservative students feel? We have arenas in which we can proselytize, but the classroom or the office where students come in for office hours is not one of them. That’s what the Academic Bill of Rights is. That’s why I drew it up. Faculty should save the world on their own time.” Horowitz also denounced Joan Foster, the president of the faculty senate at Metropolitan State College in Denver, for appearing at a rally criticizing him, arguing that it was a “betrayal of her professional role” for her to express her views in public.
If the purpose of the Academic Bill of Rights is to prevent political science faculty from putting political cartoons on their office doors and expressing their views in public, then it represents an unprecedented attack on academic freedom. Even Joe McCarthy might have hesitated before trying to ban cartoons.
In his op-ed for the Rocky Mountain News on Sept. 12, 2003, Horowitz admitted the conservative agenda behind the Academic Bill of Rights he’s pushing: “In the course of my visits to college campuses I became aware of problems that led to the drafting of this bill of rights. Among these were overt politicizing of the classroom (for example, one-sided faculty ‘teach-ins’ on the war on terror); faculty harassment of students — generally conservatives and Christians, but increasingly Jews; politically selective speakers’ programs and faculty hiring practices, which have led to the virtual exclusion of conservatives and Republicans from the university public square.” The Academic Bill of Rights is intended to force colleges to provide more conservative voices, and presumably would even ban any teach-ins by faculty that Horowitz might regard as “one-sided.”
The “Academic Bill of Rights” is not David Horowitz’s first assault on higher education. After growing up in a Communist-influenced home, he was a leading campus radical in the Sixties before becoming disillusioned. Horowitz jumped from the far left to the far right just in time to profit from the Reagan Revolution, and he made a good living denouncing his former radical friends. Horowitz runs the oddly-named Center for the Study of Popular Culture, which he uses to denounce everyone on the left, from Noam Chomsky (“the most treasonous intellect in America”) to anti-war protests to academia. In the 1990s, Horowitz ran a right-wing publication called Heterodoxy that led the parade against “political correctness” on campus (Heterodoxy eventually morphed into his current website, www.frontpagemag.com).
But it wasn’t until 2001 that Horowitz made a big splash nationally. That’s when Horowitz turned his commentary against reparations from slate.com into a full-page advertisement for college newspapers. The ad was typical for Horowitz, declaring that African-Americans benefited from slavery, and wondering: “Where’s the gratitude of black America?”
Mistakenly thinking that a conference on reparations in Chicago was being held at the University of Chicago, Horowitz ran his ad in the Chicago Maroon, where it was ignored on the conservative campus. But at California State University at Northridge, the student newspaper refused to run the ad, and Horowitz knew he had a winner. Horowitz began placing his ad around the country, denouncing “censorship” whenever it was rejected. When some angry students protested against college papers running Horowitz’s ad and a few trashed newspapers, Horowitz was overjoyed at the attention it gave him.
The controversy also exposed Horowitz’s hypocrisy. Horowitz threatened public college newspapers with lawsuits if they refused to run the ad. And when the Daily Princetonian ran Horowitz’s anti-reparations ad but also wrote an editorial that condemned Horowitz as a publicity hound and promised to donate the money from his ad to the Urban League, Horowitz retaliated: “When I read the editorial, I told my office to put a stop-payment on the check.” According to Horowitz, “I was not going to pay for abuse.”
Horowitz does not tolerate criticism. In the fall of 2002 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Horowitz reported in his blog (11/5/02), he came upon a woman with a sign denouncing him as “Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay.” Horowitz wrote: “I didn’t regard this as speech so much as a gesture like kicking me in the groin. It seemed extremely perverse of her to be defending her right to slander me to my face. So then and there — in front of her and the university official — I ripped down her sign.” Congress is telling the world’s leading colleges to take lessons on academic freedom and diversity from someone who destroys signs that criticize him and then brags about it.
The Language of Horowitz
Horowitz is a brilliant manipulator of language. In fact, he’s written guidebooks for Republican Party activists on the tactics of rhetorical warfare. But his campaign “for” academic freedom may be regarded as his finest use of distortion to serve his political ambitions.
For years, Horowitz has led a crusade against academic freedom, aiming to denounce and undermine academia in America. But now he realizes that the best way to defeat his enemy is to use their words against them. Therefore, Horowitz has appropriated the language of academic freedom, diversity, and affirmative action in his efforts to destroy these things on college campuses.
Horowitz doesn’t believe in what he says about diversity and academic freedom and hostile environments. He only finds it politically useful to use the language of free expression to manipulate the debate. As he has admitted, “I have undertaken the task of organizing conservative students myself and urging them to protest a situation that has become intolerable. I encourage them to use the language that the left has deployed so effectively in behalf of its own agendas. Radical professors have created a ‘hostile learning environment’ for conservative students. There is a lack of ‘intellectual diversity’ on college faculties and in academic classrooms. The conservative viewpoint is ‘under-represented’ in the curriculum and on its reading lists. The university should be an ‘inclusive’ and intellectually ‘diverse’ community.” Horowitz’s rhetoric is a mix of savvy manipulation and mockery. He uses “academic freedom” as his rallying cry to undermine academic freedom, and “intellectual diversity” as his justification for silencing diverse ideas he doesn’t like.
Horowitz does not believe that higher education should be a place of diverse ideas and dissent. To the contrary, he sees colleges and universities as mere training grounds for the corporate world. According to Horowitz, “the university was not created—and is not funded—to compete with other institutions. It is designed to train employees, citizens and leaders of those institutions, and to endow them with appropriate knowledge and skills.” Horowitz has a chilling vision of the university as a servile institution creating good workers who never dissent—a vision that, despite all of his complaints, colleges typically fulfill.
The media have reported on Horowitz’s campaign uncritically, as reflected in the headlines of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (10/22/03), “Bill Seeks Neutral Politics at College,” the Hill (“Kingston Backs Academic Diversity Measure”), the Associated Press (“Kingston proposes Bill of Rights for college campuses”), and the Washington Times: “Bill backs academic freedom; Republicans seek intellectual diversity at colleges.”
The Dangers of the Academic Bill of Rights
In all of his defenses of the “Academic Bill of Rights,” Horowitz repeatedly claims that critics cannot point to anything objectionable in the language of this Bill of Rights. But Horowitz misses the point: the question of enforcement is critical. An analogy can be made to journalistic ethics. We all want journalists to be truthful and ethical and fair. But we don’t want legislators to pass laws that try to prohibit “false, scandalous and malicious writing” (the words of the 1798 Sedition Act, one of the worst laws for civil liberties in American history).
There are many cases where wise ideas make for bad policies when enforced. For example, everyone agrees that campus speakers should provide “a legitimate educational experience or otherwise contribute to the University’s mission,” but Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington decided to require that administrators pre-approve campus speeches to make sure they meet these guidelines (after canceling a speech by a Planned Parenthood official and banning the play “The Vagina Monologues” last year). Ethical guides are perfectly appropriate when adopted by professionals and extraordinarily dangerous when imposed by universities or the government as punishable offenses.
Although the current language of the Academic Bill of Rights is voluntary, Horowitz and Republican politicians intend to impose more conservatives on higher education. Rep. Kingston told CNSNews.com, “This will cause the colleges and universities to have a self-examination and maybe make some changes. But if they’re not willing to do that, we hope that the parents and the taxpayers of America will force it upon them.” Horowitz has written on his website, “We are appealing directly to the trustees and state-appointed governing bodies of these institutions as well.” He added, “We call on state legislatures in particular to begin these inquiries at the institutions they are responsible for and to enact practical remedies as soon as possible.”
Horowitz has repeatedly expressed his belief that universities cannot be reformed from within, and faculty and administrators cannot be trusted: “If there is to be reform, it will have to come from other quarters.” His claim that the provisions of the Academic Bill of Rights will be purely voluntary, therefore, cannot be believed. “Unfortunately, we live in a time when we can’t trust our professors, all of them,” Horowitz has noted. “Only the actions of legislators will begin the necessary process of reform.”
Horowitz has also met with college trustees in an effort to have them exert greater control over leftist professors. One supporter of Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights is Jon Caldara, head of the right-wing think tank Independence Institute, who told the Rocky Mountain News: “Don’t blame David Horowitz for this. Blame a bunch of pansy-assed regents who won’t stand up and demand ideological diversity on college campuses.” Horowitz and his allies hope to pressure these “pansy-assed regents” to infringe upon the academic freedom of faculty, all ostensibly in the name of academic freedom.
The Academic Bill of Rights is an attack on higher education disguised as a defense of neutrality and academic freedom. But as Jonathan Knight of the American Association of University Professors noted about Horowitz’s bill, “Academic freedom suffers when political figures start to insist that they must cultivate intellectual diversity.”
Horowitz’s National Crusade
The Washington Times (9/15/03) reported that Horowitz has spoken to Republican leaders in 20 states, and he claims that several unnamed states are planning legislation. Horowitz has also met with the University of California Board of Regents and the University of Oregon administration. According to Horowitz, “I first came up with the idea of an Academic Bill of Rights in the course of discussions with the chairman of the board of regents of one of the largest public university systems in the United States. The chairman was enthusiastic about the bill and assured me he would make it the policy of his institution. He was particularly encouraged because he could see no objection to its particulars that might be raised from any quarter.” Horowitz accurately sees the pro-business trustees and legislators as his allies in the fight to squash liberal ideas. But he realizes that the traditional protections of academic freedom prevent his goal of intimidating leftist faculty.
Horowitz made a brilliant innovation: use the concept of student academic freedom in order to undermine faculty academic freedom. A Wall Street Journal editorial praising Horowitz noted (9/19/03), “Academic freedom has long been a battle cry on campus, but what makes this push distinctive is the student angle — a reflection, no doubt, of the increasing discomfort of conservative students, many of whom believe that they suffer in the classroom for their views.” By asserting that students have equal claim to academic freedom with their professors, Horowitz would give students a powerful stick to wield over faculty. Any bias alleged by a student could result in professors being hauled before an ideological tribunal to evaluate their teaching techniques. Although this would pose a severe threat to faculty academic freedom, Horowitz justifies it by appealing to a new concept of student academic freedom.
Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture created a group called “Students for Academic Freedom” which claims to have established chapters on 100 campuses around the country in order to “appeal to governors and state legislators to write The Academic Bill of Rights into educational policy and law.”
The Battle for Colorado
Colorado was the first state in Horowitz’s efforts to impose the “Academic Bill of Rights” on every college. Horowitz first proposed an Academic Bill of Rights at a July 2002 conference of the Association of Legislative and Economic Councils, where Gov. Bill Owens and Colorado Senate President John Andrews heard about it. In June 2003, Horowitz came to Colorado and met with 23 Colorado Republicans, including Owens and Andrews. After his meeting in Colorado was revealed months later, Horowitz defended it as nothing out of the ordinary: “My office had made an appointment with the governor, and I walked in the front door of his office to spend a half hour with him, a privilege of ordinary citizens.” While few “ordinary citizens” from Colorado get to meet with the governor, a far-right activist from California was invited to present his plan to help Republicans exert more control over academia.
Horowitz claimed in his Sept. 12, 2003 op-ed for the Rocky Mountain News, “I have no idea what Owens or Colorado legislators are proposing in their efforts to deal with the troubles on our college campuses.” In reality, Horowitz knows exactly what these top Republicans want to do. Christopher Sanders, a Republican staffer who helped arrange the June 12 meeting between Horowitz and the Colorado Republicans about the Academic Bill of Rights, told the Rocky Mountain News: “They had the discussion…on how to put teeth into it, to make them accountable to the legislature and the governor, how to create it in such a way that it was enforceable and that the schools had to do it, so it wasn’t just a nice warm-fuzzy statement…The discussion involved their funding on an annual basis, when their budget is renewed.”
Yet the Academic Bill of Rights that Horowitz is pushing declares, “Nor shall legislatures impose any such orthodoxy through its control of the university budget.” Horowitz is vague about the enforcement of his Bill of Rights, but he has publicly declared, “Personally, I hope it’s tied to funding.” Horowitz thinks legislators should intimidate public (and perhaps private) colleges that allow faculty to express political views by cutting government funding, in exact opposition to the words of his own Academic Bill of Rights.
Horowitz’s denunciations of liberals provoke fears that he wants to restrict academic freedom. Even some Republicans worry that Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights and crusade against leftists in academia goes too far. John Donley, a Republican and former state lawmaker who now teaches political science at a Colorado community college, told the press: “The far-right conservatives control the Colorado House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion, but that isn’t enough – they’ve decided they want to control our classrooms.”
Jesse Walker, associate editor for the libertarian magazine Reason, wrote about the Academic Bill of Rights: “As broad principles, these are solid stuff. As enforced rules, they open the door to, say, a biology student lodging an official complaint because her professor gave short shrift to Creationism.” According to Walker, “In the ’80s and ’90s the anti-P.C. backlash began, in part, because students offended by putatively bigoted courses were responding not by debating their professors but by taking them to the collegiate equivalent of court. It would be an unpleasant irony if, in 2003, the anti-P.C. backlash ends with conservative students earning the right to do the same thing.” Walker concluded, “There’s no such thing as a perfectly balanced debate, and a heavy-handed effort to create one is more likely to chill speech than to encourage it. The most worrisome thing about Horowitz’s group is the sneaking suspicion that that’s exactly what they want.”
Horowitz responded, “Walker suggests that my Academic Bill of Rights could have ‘chilling effects’ on academic freedom. The missing context is this: What academic freedom?” Because Horowitz believes academic freedom already has been destroyed by left-wing faculty, he is unconcerned about any dangers legislative control over higher education might pose.
Horowitz imagines a brave new academic world where faculty are kept on a short leash. In his exchange with Walker, Horowitz wrote: “The Bill of Rights clearly recognizes that the teacher has the right to teach the course as he or she sees fit. The only limit to this right is article 5: ‘Exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty. Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination.’ Having audited a course at one of the premier liberal colleges in the country, where a 600-page Marxist textbook on ‘modern industrial society’ was taught as though it were a text in Newtonian physics, I can testify that this is very necessary right to protect academic freedom in the contemporary university.”
In Horowitz’s vision of the Academic Bill of Rights, a professor who merely teaches a sociology textbook disliked by Horowitz is guilty of violating these rights and should be subject to punishment. As Walker put it, “I’m actually sympathetic to the idea that students should have more power on campus, but not this sort of power; not the right to lodge official complaints against professors for the views they choose to explore in class.”
Horowitz has a Messianic vision (“our tiny band of supporters of academic freedom approaches the coming battle with the campus totalitarians”) of his heroic campaign against liberal academics. The Academic Bill of Rights is just the first step is Horowitz’s campaign for ideological control of higher education in America. Once the Bill of Rights and its vague provisions are put in place, Horowitz will then expand his call for enforcement by legislators and trustees, using the Academic Bill of Rights to demand the firing of leftists who express political views in their classrooms, and forcing the hiring of conservatives. His allies will be able to sue colleges for breach of contract if the Academic Bill of Rights is violated by “one-sided” presentations or politically-minded faculty.
Horowitz wants to plant ideological time bombs on college campuses, first passing an innocuous-sounding “Academic Bill of Rights” in state legislatures and Congress, and then using these vague provisions to investigate professors for their textbook choices and to silence dissenters who dare to post political cartoons on their office doors.
The notion of the federal government attempting to impose Horowitz’s brand of conservative correctness on every college in the country is frightening. During the McCarthy Era, the enemies of academic freedom were sometimes explicit about their attack on academic integrity. Now the enemies of academic freedom are cloaking their assault on liberal professors in the rhetoric of student academic freedom. But although the attacks have become much more sophisticated, the aim is still the same: to purge left-wing and liberal ideas from college campuses.TOP
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You may wish to contact the Minnesota Conference Committee A on academic freedom by getting in touch with the chair of the committee, Dr. Wayne Wolsey:
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The conference website (www.mnaaup.org) features information about Committee A.
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