Friday, October 21

Rights and Academia

Last March when Ann Coulter spoke at the University of Kansas, she was heckled and cursed by some of the students in the audience. So I wasn't surprised to see that Dr. David Horowitz had a security guard with him when he appeared at the University of Missouri in Kansas City this month. It's a sad commentary on our times to realize that the man standing quietly to the side, facing the audience, is there to protect the speaker's right to free speech. This is, after all, America.

But times have changed in America. David Horowitz, author, speaker, former- liberal-turned-conservative, is the head of a national organization that is working for students' rights in university classrooms.

His organization is "Students For Academic Freedom" and its purpose is "dedicated to restoring acdemic freedom and educational values to America's institutions of higher learning." Its goals are: "1. To promote intellectual diversity on campuses. 2. To defend the right of students to be treated with respect by faculty and administrators, regardless of their political or religious beliefs. 3. To promote fairness, civility and inclusion in student affairs. 4. To secure the adoption of the 'Academic Bill of Rights' as official university policy."

The problem Gary Sarrett describes in his blog titled "College Professors: Making Debate Obsolete One Student At A Time!" at GOP Insight is much too common for the good of healthy discourse in this country. Conservative students in colleges all over the country, from the Ivy League to State Universities to Community Colleges find that most of their professors are leftists in their political views (which is fine) and that those professors actively indoctrinate their students and punish those who dare to challenge their points of view (which is NOT fine) even in subjects that have nothing to do with the political arena.

Horowitz has been collecting stories from abused students for quite some time. Typical is the student who was, three weeks after the fall of Bagdad in May 2003, required to answer a "question" on her final exam that instructed students to "Explain why George Bush is a war criminal." The student explained instead why she thought Saddam Hussein was a war criminal. She received an "F."

In his booklet, "The Campaign For Academic Freedom," Dr. Horowitz gives specific examples of why this campaign is necessary. "When students go to their professors' offices," he writes, "they go for help. When professors plaster their doors with partisan cartoons that mock the deeply held beliefs of students of matters like abortion and party affiliation -- which they regularly do -- this creates a wall between faculty and students, which is injurious to the counseling process. How can a professor teach a student whom he regards as a partisan adversary? The answer is he cannot."

He also tells of his experience in trying to point out to colleges the errors of their ways and trying to get them to change. Dr. Horowitz has lectured and written on the subject for several years with what he describes as "little impact." He says, "The only result of my reviewing these facts has been to inspire an attack on my integrity by the American Association of University Professors." The opposition doesn't seem to care that the very principles espoused are the ones first published in 1915 in the famous report, "The Principles of Tenure and Academic Freedom" which were immediately embraced by institutions of higher education all over the US.

Enduring personal attacks in articles full of misrepresentation and downright lies published against him, Horowitz realized that he was up against the proverbial brick wall. College administrators were happy with the status quo and there was nothing he could do to change them. Except hit them where it hurts -- in the purse.

So Dr. Horowitz drafted legislation to protect students' rights and has been going to state legislatures to gain their support. The legislatures of each state -- as elected representatives of the people whose taxes support and finance the educational institutions -- have a fiduciary responsibility to their constituents to remedy the situation.

Interestingly, the University of Colorado (home of "progressive" liberal Ward Churchill) became one of Dr. Horowitz's first successes. (Ohio is another.) After a series of hearings and discussions, university administrators realized that intellectual diversity no longer existed on their campus. In collaboration with the Colorado House, the Presidents of the University of Colorado and other Colorado universities signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which they pledged to provide protections to students of all political viewpoints.

Shortly after this, the Colorado legislature overwhelmingly adopted Senate Joint Resolution 04-033, which commended the presidents for their willingness to provide those needed protections and requesting regular reports on their progress.

Dr. Horowitz is dedicating his time, fortune and effort to promoting academic freedom for all. His national organization, Students For Academic Freedom can use all the help it can get. For more information contact Sara Dogan at sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or telephone 202-393-0123. Visit the web site at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

It's important. The future of America depends on it.

No comments:

Contributors