Students Say Views Ridiculed · 18 December 2003

Filed under: Press Coverage

By John C. Ensslin--Rocky Mountain News, 12/19/03

A group of college students told legislators Thursday they have been subjected to ridicule, hostility and bad grades because of their conservative views.

They complained about conservative authors being left off required reading lists and about professors who talk in class about their own liberal politics and who deride conservative politicians.

" Conservative students often begin to wonder if they are as stupid and evil as their counterparts and instructors assert, since there is no one who thinks the way they do on campus," said Kelly Ann Weist, an adjunct instructor of political science at Metropolitan State University of Denver and a self-described conservative.

Senate President John Andrews called the hearing at the Capitol as part of what he called a "fact-finding" mission to determine if legislation is needed to enforce academic diversity in Colorado.

"I know the policies are there. The question is, 'How are they being enforced?' " he said. "This should be a wake-up call to the good-faith dean and administrators on campus."

Another group of students, who learned about the hearing on short notice, countered that it was a "dog-and-pony show" orchestrated by Andrews and the Independence Institute, a think tank Andrews once ran.

They contend that lawmakers are wasting time on a nonissue while colleges and universities are being forced to lay off teachers because of state budget cuts.

"The current financial situation is making it impossible for Colorado to be competitive," said Lindsey Trout, a sophomore at Metro State.

She complained that much of the testimony Thursday was unverified and anecdotal.

"I don't want to see teachers made vulnerable to politically or personally motivated attacks," she said.

Testimony was dominated, however, by students whose views were compiled in a report put together by the Independence Institute.

That led to complaints from Democrats, who accused Andrews of running a hastily convened "kangaroo committee."

"Senator Andrews' priorities are misguided," said Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald, a Democrat from Golden. "These proceedings do a disservice to the legislature by fostering a witch hunt of faculty who have no opportunity to defend themselves."

After the hearing, Andrews said he was undecided on whether to introduce legislation on the issue.