Academic Freedom Abuses at Duke and Berkeley · 19 February 2004

In a statement revealing the abusive atmosphere that conservative students face at American Universities today, Duke Philosophy Department Chair Robert Brandon publicly claimed in the student newspaper, The Chronicle, that conservatives are scarce in academia because stupid people are likely to be conservative.

Ironically, Brandon's comments were made attempting to refute the conclusion reached by the student-run Duke Conservative Union that conservatives are discriminated against in academia, after a survey of professor voting registrations revealed an overall disparity of 18-1, Democrats to Republicans, among University deans and faculty members in eight humanities departments surveyed at the school.

"Students for Academic Freedom is devoted to the cause of intellectual diversity and we object to the sentiment expressed by the chair of Duke's prestigious philosophy department that the obstacle to a diverse faculty is the idiocy of Republicans. We will combat this notion and will campaign for an investigation into Duke's hiring practices," said Stephen Miller, president of Duke's chapter of Students for Academic Freedom.
You can read the Duke Conservative Union ad about voting registration disparities here and can read Students for Academic Freedom's press release on this latest controversy here.

The second big incident of the week occurred last Tuesday, February 10, when renowned Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes attempted to deliver a speech at Berkeley, but was shouted-down and obstructed by students belonging to the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine who willfully disregarded signs posted outside the lecture hall warning that no banners, signs, shouting or violence would be allowed during the speech.

These students sat in a block and disrupted the speech, nearly drowning out the speaker at several points with organized chanting and jeering of derogatory terms and slogans, and forcing campus police to further disrupt the proceedings by ejecting them. Such was the volume of their disruption that classes in adjacent buildings were disturbed by the noise.

It is an outrage that at the home of the campus free speech movement, speakers must be accompanied by phalanxes of armed officers and private security teams to ensure their safety. If UC-Berkeley is to maintain an environment conducive to academic discourse, these breaches of free speech policy by registered student organizations must not be tolerated.

This is not the first time that these students have openly disobeyed university rules. In the spring of 2002, Students for Justice in Palestine was suspended as an official campus group after they organized a hostile takeover of Wheeler Hall, only to be reinstated one month later.

Students for Academic Freedom has dispatched letters to the appropriate administrators at both universities, asking for a careful examination of recent events and for the adoption of the Academic Bill of Rights as official university policy to ensure that minority viewpoints will encounter no future obstacles to free expression. You can read the letter to Berkeley Vice Chancellor Cummins here .

If an incident like this has happened on your campus, please don't keep it to yourself. Students for Academic Freedom can help you to publicize the occurrence and shame your university into protecting your academic freedoms. Email me at or submit a complaint form on our website here.

Best Regards,
Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom