Read a UMN student's response here · 03 March 2005

Filed under: Press Coverage


By Mike Rosen--Rocky Mountain News--03/04/05

Thank you Ward Churchill! As the poster child for so much of what's wrong with higher education today, you moved this issue from the back burner to the front burner of public policy. Whether you stay or go is merely another battle. This is about the war of ideas.

Richard Rorty is a philosophy professor at the University of Virginia. He's also editor of an unabashedly socialist magazine, Dissent, and a hero of the academic left. Here's his political assessment of academe: "The power base of the Left in America is now in the universities, since the trade unions have largely been killed off. The universities have done a lot of good work by setting up, for example, African-American studies programs, Women's Studies programs, and Gay and Lesbian Studies programs. They have created power bases for these movements."

Movements? If you had any illusions that these programs were simply "studying" these areas, now you know better. Like Churchill's Ethnic Studies program, they're all "movements." And American universities have become "the power base of the Left."

The debate stimulated by the Churchill affair has escalated into a long overdue exploration into the politics and processes of higher education. The sacred cow of tenure is under review, along with the limits of academic freedom and the shameful lack of ideological balance within college faculties. It's like peeling off the outer layers of an artichoke to get to the heart of the issue.

And this is it: 1) Ideology and politics. As Rorty proudly proclaims, the Left has taken over academe. We want it back. 2) Accountability. Self-important academics believe themselves to be beyond reproach, sitting as philosopher-kings, dispensing their wisdom to the ignorant masses. Nonsense. They're ordinary people, government employees dependent on their customers and the taxpayers for their income, and ultimately accountable to their bosses and the citizens who elect the Board of Regents. Academic freedom is not absolute.

One hundred ninety-nine CU faculty members, in an ad in the Boulder Daily Camera, have "demanded" that the investigation of Churchill be "stopped immediately." They argue that inquiries into his alleged plagiarism, misrepresentation of sources cited in his "scholarly" writings, false claims of Indian status in his affirmative action job application, and incitements to commit violence should be inadmissible because he had originally been criticized only for his ideas. Please. This is like saying a fugitive serial killer should be released because he was originally stopped by the police for making an illegal left turn. Churchill's potty mouth is what got him noticed.

Some of his apologists have resorted to playing the "McCarthyism" card. Nonsense. This implies that Churchill is being unjustly hounded for things he has not done or things that cause no harm.

On the contrary, Churchill's misdeeds appear to be quite tangible, deadly serious and extremely harmful. That's why there's an investigation. Let's see what it concludes.

Professor Charles Braider, director of the Center for Humanities and Arts, says the Churchill investigation has caused a "chilling effect" on curriculum and is "affecting the very life of the university." Good. It's about time. I'd prefer to call it a remedial, correcting effect.

Whatever the outcome for Churchill, the battle lines have formed and are hardening. Here's what many of us, I hope most, would like to see: substantive change, a revolution even, at the University of Colorado. It must start with electing regents who have a commitment to restoring real, intellectual diversity and an evenhanded exchange of ideas. That means hiring conservative professors to balance the now left-lopsided scales.

It means ending politically correct speech codes for students and the "diversity" and "sensitivity" re-education camps freshmen are forced to attend. It means a housecleaning of administrators, starting with President Betsy Hoffman. It means hiring new administrators with sufficient backbone to take on the entrenched, leftist faculty with knowledge that the regents will stand behind those administrators. If the changing culture disturbs some in the tenured left who preferred their monopoly, let them leave, and good riddance.

We're told that applications from out-of-state students - who subsidize Colorado students by paying six times the resident tuition - have fallen off sharply. Here's the perfect remedy: Convert CU into a bastion of conservative thought, making it the only big-time state university in the country of that kind. The pent-up demand for such a school is overwhelming.

Multitudes of students would beat a path to our door.