Victory in Colorado · 14 September 2004

Victory in Colorado: Reforms are Underway

On the morning of September 9, the Colorado Legislature held a joint education committee hearing to determine whether the four major universities who signed a Memorandum of Understanding promising to enact reforms promoting academic freedom had made significant progress. University presidents and administrators from each of the four major state universities testified as to the progress being made to address issues on academic freedom in higher education, and concerns about the climate on campus relating to political and ideological diversity.

Dr. Larry Penley, President of Colorado State University (CSU) and the CSU-Pueblo campus, reported the most progress in revising its campus policies and making its students aware of the university's commitment to intellectual diversity. In addition to revising school policies to incorporate protection from "discrimination or harassment on the basis of religion, creed, [or] political beliefs," a newly revised diversity and non-discrimination statement, along with extensive instructions for accessing campus grievance procedures in the event of a violation, have already been published in the 2004-2006 Course Catalogue, and have been incorporated into presentations given to each new student during orientation. On the webpage of the Office of the President, CSU has prominently displayed the complete text of the Memorandum of Understanding and Senate Joint Resolution 04-033, along with a September 3rd letter in which President Penley emphasizes his personal "commitment to a campus environment that respects the rights of students and faculty to express diverse, and at times, unpopular opinions, [since] that is at the heart of what it means to be a great university."

Elizabeth Hoffman, President of the University of Colorado, reported that a task force has been appointed this semester to incorporate notions of political diversity into the codes and policies of the school. Although the CU system has not yet revised it's non-discrimination policies to explicitly incorporate protections for political and ideological diversity, President Hoffman announced that some individual programs within the University of Colorado have already done so, including at the University of Colorado College of Law.

Dr. Kieft, Interim President of Metro State University, testified that the recent attention on this issue has had "a good effect," but acknowledged that addressing the abuses of academic freedom that take place in the classroom, and changing the culture on the college campuses to one that is more welcoming of diverse political views and fair discussion, "is going to take time, and constant vigilance by university administrators."

Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) applauds the progress being made on the issue of academic freedom in Colorado, and is encouraged by the presidents' efforts thus far, but much more work remains to be done. We also give thanks to the Colorado Legislature for overseeing this process and ensuring that academic freedom remains a vital issue in that state. A complete report on our progress in Colorado thus far is available here .

Reports of Abuses from Across the Nation:

The new semester is only a few weeks old, but already reports of classroom abuses are streaming in from across the nation.

At Ball State University in Indiana, student Brett Mock recently contacted our organization with an account of his experience in Professor Wolfe's "Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution" class last spring. He describes an intellectual atmosphere that was entirely closed to all political or philosophical viewpoints that differed from Professor Wolfe's personal belief in extreme pacifism. Students who attempted to argue that violence is sometimes the only means to achieving peaceful resolution were intimidated from presenting their views to the class.

Among the many specific violations of academic freedom alleged in this class:

-Professor Wolfe asserted to the class that violent responses to violent aggression are never acceptable, even in extreme circumstances, thus alienating and silencing those members of the class who believe that force can be an instrument of peace.

-When a book report and presentation were assigned to the class, Professor Wolfe refused a student request to review a book presenting a theory of non-peaceful resolution to conflict.

-Many articles were distributed in class criticizing U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq and highlighting casualties, but not a single article was presented defending the decision to go to war.

-Professor Wolfe offered extra credit to students who attended a university-sponsored trip to Washington, DC for the purpose of protesting the war in Iraq. No funding or extra credit was granted to students who would have preferred to show their support for the war on terror.

You can read Brett's article on the class here .

In short, Professor Wolfe's conduct in the classroom could be described only as indoctrination, not education, and constituted a blatant violation of his students' academic freedoms. Students for Academic Freedom has gone on the offensive, publicizing this case and sending a letter to BSU President Jo Ann Gora stating that an apology is in order from Professor Wolfe to the students in the Peace Studies program and to request that her office launch an immediate inquiry to ascertain whether the Peace Studies program at BSU is appropriately fulfilling its educational mission.

Across the country at the University of Georgia, another student, sophomore Bradley Alexander, was also having difficulty receiving a non-partisan education when he attended the first section of a history class on World Wars I and II.

" I have a particular interest in Western Civilization so I was naturally interested when I heard that a course entitled 'History 4400: History of the World Wars' was being offered this semester," Bradley described in an article for Students for Academic Freedom. On the first day of class, Professor John Morrow "entered the classroom and immediately launched into what can only be described as a 90 minute tirade which began with the comment, 'For those of you who have had me before you know I haven't changed one damn bit.'"

Professor Morrow revealed to students that he "hated George Bush" and that various members of the Republican administration were "chicken s-t" (a phrase he repeated several times). He went on to claim that the President was able to escape service Vietnam due to his father's influence, and was deliberately trained to fly on a jet that was no longer used in combat. He also told students that the Bush administration had lied extensively about the war in Iraq and said that the only reason were in that country was to steal oil. This tirade continued for a full 90 minutes, more than 20 minutes past the time when the class was due to end.

William Pierce, a student at Metropolitan State College of Denver, was the victim of a similar experience when he attended the introductory lecture of Professor Oneida Meranto. You may recall that Dr. Meranto was charged with discriminating against conservative students last year when she told the College Republican that they "need to withdraw from the Political Science Association," accusing them of conspiring with a conservative think tank to have her fired. Dr. Meranto offered no evidence for this preposterous assertion. She was later found by the university to have violated a federal privacy act by releasing information about a student's grades when he testified about her actions at a state hearing on the Academic Bill of Rights.

Despite this history, Dr. Meranto appears even more determined to indoctrinate students with her particular political creed. As William described in a formal complaint to the school's Equal Opportunity Office, "Throughout her introductory lecture, she attacked Republicans. She inferred that we are incapable of thinking critically, and should therefore drop her class. She posed the question, why are most of us in the academic world on the left. She answered her question with the following: It's because those of us on the left are those capable of thinking critically. This statement clearly indicates her belief that those on the right of the political debate are incapable and do not engage in critical thinking." Metro State is investigating and we will continue to follow this case closely.

If you too have experienced an abuse of academic freedom on your campus, please let us know about it. You can reach me at or by phone at 919-363-3700. And stay tuned to our website, for all the latest news from the Academic Freedom Campaign.

Yours in Freedom,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom