The Message From Colorado · 12 September 2003

In a series of stories published in major Colorado newspapers, it was announced that a new organization, Students for Academic Freedom, was seeking to the passage of legislation that would mandate a certain quota of conservative professors in the classroom of all public universities in the state.

"Democrats lashed out Monday at a GOP plan to get more Republicans on Colorado's college campuses, calling it academic McCarthyism and quotas for conservatives," wrote reporter Peggy Lowe, in a news piece in the Rocky Mountain News on Tuesday.

"The [Academic Bill of Rights suggests] that professors in the humanities, social sciences and arts be hired and promoted 'with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives.' That sounds a bit like affirmative action," declared columnist Clint Talbott in the Daily Camera.

In making such statements, the Colorado press vastly misinterpreted the aims of Students for Academic Freedom. Fortunately, it didn't take long for us to set the record straight.

"The Academic Bill of Rights expressly forbids hiring or firing faculty on the basis of their political views. In other words it forbids political quotes. This was the press attempting to spin what should have been a news story against us," comments David Horowitz, who told the Denver Post: "I never want to see any legislation that calls for a percentage of Republicans or Democrats on a faculty or a percentage reflecting the voters of the state," Horowitz continued. "I'm appalled by that, and I don't believe any legislator in Colorado has that in mind."

While the faulty statements of the Colorado press have been corrected, this negative media campaign should remind us of the importance of rhetoric in our campaign. Students for Academic Freedom is a movement for intellectual diversity in the classroom.

This has nothing to do with quotas or with "affirmative action for conservatives" as the media elite in Colorado might have you believe. We are not asking that a specific percentage of faculty at our nation's universities be registered Republicans, and we are certainly not trying to achieve some vague notion of ideological "balance".

To characterize faculty by their political affiliations during the hiring process entirely defeats our objectives. As the Academic Bill of Rights states, "No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure solely on the basis of his or her political religious beliefs." A candidate's political and religious beliefs should not be a matter of consideration at all. That's the point we're trying to drive home.

So, you might ask, why publicize the ratios of Republicans and Democrats in the classroom? For a simple reason that has nothing to do with quotas. These vastly lopsided figures (94% Democratic faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder, 98% at the University of Denver) provide objective standards of bias, since party affiliation is a choice of the individuals themselves. Even accounting for the fact that more liberals go into academia than do conservatives, can anyone truly claim with a straight face that liberals are so overwhelmingly more competent as teachers and scholars that they deserve to win such an astoundingly high percentage of professorships? This outcome is incomprehensible based on merit alone. And if hiring committees are refusing to hire conservatives for reasons other than their scholarly achievements, what other factors are they using to justify their decisions?

At bottom, our campaign is one of respect. We demand that university faculty and administrators show respect for their students, regardless of their political beliefs. We demand the hiring and tenure committees show respect for candidates' scholarship, no matter what their political stripe. And we are confident that if respect in the classroom becomes the norm, the political ratios we so often cite will improve on their own. Conservative students will begin to pursue academic careers in greater numbers, and more will be hired at elite universities--no "affirmative action" or quotas required.

The Colorado media blitz has had one lasting benefit. It has lit a fire under the Students for Academic Freedom movement in the state. Nearly 100 students signed up for SAF at Denver University, and David Horowitz has been invited to speak at 4 campuses in Colorado during the next month alone.

If you are interested in starting up an SAF chapter or inviting David Horowitz to speak on your campus, please contact me at 202-969-2467 or at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org. I'll be in touch shortly with more news from our ongoing campaign.

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