Indoctrination at Indiana U. · 27 January 2004

At the start of last term, the student enrolled in a class that purported to be on the topic of "workplace safety." To his great surprise, the professor, a senior lecturer named Cheryl Holmes, dedicated most of the course to lecturing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a pro-PLO perspective and to condemning America's foreign policy approach and involvement in Iraq.

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, confronted Holmes about the inappropriate content of the course, but was told that if he was unhappy he should simply drop the class.

Email correspondence between the student and Holmes confirms his allegations that she hijacked her class for political purposes. "The point was made that the United States has conducted operations in a variety of nations that can be interpreted as 'terroristic' acts, including assassinations, bombings, and killing civilian populations," Holmes wrote. She continued, "I will not avoid discussing this conflict, because it is critical to understanding motivations for terrorism and conflict in our world. If you feel you would be more comfortable in another class, I encourage you to drop this one and take another."

Further proof is provided by an examination of the course materials for this class which are available online. Course worksheets ask leading questions about Middle East politics. "After the partition, what did some Jewish terrorist groups do?," one questions asks. "After the Six Days War, how many more Palestinian Arabs were placed under military control?"

"I could not tolerate my parents paying $25,000 a semester to go to a school where I was indoctrinated and particularly with material totally unrelated to the course," said the student, who received an A in the course but remains upset at the semester he spent subject to Holmes' off-topic classroom tirades.

For a complete look into SAF's investigation of this course, please read the article on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

Students for Academic Freedom is currently involved in discussions with Holmes, Faculty Chair Mohammed Torbani, and the student (who has agreed to reveal his identity to Indiana administrators in order to aid the investigation). Holmes is teaching this same class this semester and there is no indication that her methods and teaching philosophy have changed.

This course qualifies as academic fraud, since the instructor has no qualifications to teach the subject, and the course was falsely advertised in the catalogue. It is also a violation of the students' academic rights, since it consists of political material which is wholly one-sided on a controversial issue and has no relation to the subject, which is health science. The fact that the course is being repeated is only possible through the dereliction of the department and school administration. This is yet another indication of the need for the Academic Bill of Rights.

A complaint from a single student was the spark needed to ignite a controversy over an inappropriate course. Whatever the end result, it is unlikely that the course will continue in its current form now that the University is forced to confront the violations of academic freedom that it has sanctioned. Please continue to collect student complaint forms about partisan abuses on campus. Your testimony is crucial evidence that an Academic Bill of Rights is needed to curb these violations of student rights and is the first step towards making lasting changes on your campus.

Abuses of academic freedom happen in high schools as well, and one such story comes to us from California. Our source writes, "I had the opportunity to enter a classroom on the campus of Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California. Behind the teacher's desk was a large "Vote Democrat" poster stuck to the wall. On the doors were several anti-President Bush ads and gaffs posted prominently. It was obvious the teacher had an agenda he or she was introducing to these young and impressionable high school students. Obviously, ideas against the teacher would most likely be opposed."

This individual wrote an e-mail to the Superintendent of the school district, but his plea for fairness and intellectual diversity in the classroom yielded no response.

"It is a shame that this is allowed to go on, especially in violation of the ethics code educators are supposed to honor. Just another story you are probably used to hearing by now," he concluded.

You can email complaints to me at sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or you can submit them online on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

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