College Republicans Say Speaker 'Ruffles Feathers' · 29 November 2005

By Jessica Haley--URI Good 5 Cent Cigar--11/30/05

Encouraging students to attend a speech delivered by nationally acclaimed and controversial conservative author and speaker David Horowitz at the University of Rhode Island last night, the URI College Republicans promised in an advertisement that it would "ruffle some feathers," and it drew student protesters and dissenters.

President of the College Republicans Ryan Bilodeau introduced Horowitz by noting his experiences with various "liberal" professors at the University of Rhode Island.

"Teachers are using their classroom to inject their political philosophy. I've recently taken a test in which one of the questions compared the intelligence of a bed of flowers to current Supreme Court nominees, referring to Harriet Miers," Bilodeau, a junior, said. "Another stated openly in class that no republican cares for the homeless."

Horowitz was promoting a legislation known as the Academic Bill of Rights, which was formed along with his organization Students for Academic Freedom.

The mission statement reads, "Students for Academic Freedom is a national coalition of independent campus groups dedicated to restoring academic freedom and educational values to America's institutions of higher learning."

Horowitz said he is concerned with "indoctrination" on college campuses across the nation. The definition of indoctrination according to is "to imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view."

The basis of his argument was the lack of conservative political science professors that are employed at URI, and the abundance of "liberal and leftist" views that were "putting a distance between conservative students and their teachers."

"You can't get a good education if you are only being told half of the story," Horowitz said. "It's the students' right not to be indoctrined. The two pillars of academic rights and freedom are diversity of views and being aware that there is more than one ideology."

Horowitz's campaigning, according to the mission statement, is for "reasoned intellectual pluralism, fairness, civility and inclusion in higher education; to secure more representation for under-represented viewpoints, to end the tyranny of majority or minority viewpoints; and to create a positive learning environment regardless of political or religious beliefs."

The documents encourage students to start a local chapter of Students for Academic Freedom, explaining ways of implementing the goals of the program as well as suggesting ways to research campus abuses.

"Why doesn't this university have a single conservative on the faculty?" Horowitz said. "You should think about that and why it persists. This university has blacklisted conservatives to such an extent that they are not on the faculty. It's wrong, just plain wrong."

The speech was interrupted by a quiet filing in of members from the URI NAACP and Uhuru SaSa.

Horowitz insisted that the members sit down and responded to the protest. "Stop! Is this a demonstration? This is why I cannot come to a University like this. I'm not recognizing you."

Horowitz finished his speech with a question and answer session, which seemed to raise additional issues such as racism and feminism.

In response to one of the many questions Horowitz was asked by audience members, he said, "Your professors have sent you an absolutely crippling message. Anytime anything bad is done to black people it is white people's fault."

Melissa Zaba, a URI student, raised the issue of the ratio of average woman's salary to that of a man in today's society. She said women make 76 cents to every dollar that a man makes.

"That is feminist baloney," said Horowitz. "If women made 76 percent of what a man did, then smart capitalists would fire all men and hire women to increase their income."

Another student, Megan Carrado, agreed with Horowitz. She expressed her concerns about the political science department claiming that she was worried that she may receive a poor grade in response to her moderate political views. She said her teacher "told me he would kill me, twice."

URI history professor Bob Weisbord was among the audience members to question Horowitz's ideas.

"I think it was a very provocative discussion but I do think that he was particularly rude in answering to the questions and acted in a very confrontation manner," Weisbord said. "He was picking fights, especially when the protesters came in. They were very quiet as far as I noticed."

"Our aim was to bring as many people to the event and expose the lack of intellectual diversity on campus, and I think that's exactly what we did," Bilodeau said.

"I think it is important for the University that a conservative like me come and provoke discussion like that and for the students to have more professors who are conservative," Horowitz said. "It may have been more productive if were in a seminar room where we could have productively discussed the issues. Students were very well behaved, they were lively but they were orderly. I'm a pugnacious fellow and I accept responsibility for everything I say. "