Middletown Journal · 22 March 2006

Middletown Journal

Editorial--03/23/06

On Wednesday, The Journal published a column by U.S. House Majority Leader John Boehner on steps that Congress is taking to ensure "free speech and independent thought" on American college campuses. Ironically, neither are the goals of David Horowitz' "Academic Bill of Rights" which Boehner says has been incorporated into the Higher Education Act, also known as H.R. 609.

If the "Academic Bill of Rights" sounds familiar, it should. It's the same radical conservative agenda that some Ohio state lawmakers, including our own state senator, Gary Cates, R-West Chester Township, have tried to put in place in the Buckeye State.

Purportedly intended to halt any discrimination by colleges against students for their political views, Horowitz is really taking aim at what he and others perceive to be a liberal bias on American campuses. "The intellectual corruption of our universities by political radicals has been proceeding without interruption since the Vietnam War," Horowitz wrote recently. " It has now become a pervasive and destructive fact of our national life."

If liberal brainwashing is the hidden agenda on our college campuses, professors must be doing a lousy job. Both houses in Congress are controlled by the Republican Party - the more conservative of our two mainstream political parties - and the vast majority of senators and representatives have college degrees. "If professors control their students, and if the left controls the universities, then why are there so many college-educated Republicans?" asks Sophia McClennen, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Horowitz' real aim is to suppress free speech and to prevent college professors from challenging students or to divert from state-approved curriculum. "Professors should not be making comments about the war in Iraq in classes that are not about the war in Iraq," he writes. "Nor should they be indoctrinating students in feminism or any other -ism."

His latest book is titled "The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America," which pretty much sums up his attitude about American universities and apparently earns him - in Boehner's eyes - a place at the table to discuss the Higher Education Act.

This thinly veiled attempt to influence political thought on college campuses is especially ironic coming from the politicians who say they believe in a smaller, less intrusive government - except in college classrooms - and in the free enterprise system. Americans vote with the wallets, they remind us, and if enough Americans are upset with the so-called liberal universities, they'll send their sons and daughters to more conservative institutions. When enough do that, the liberal colleges will disappear, won't they?

How disappointing that some version of Horowitz' radical agenda will find its way into this important bill - especially in the name of free speech. Doublespeak indeed.

Response to Middletown Journal

To the Editor:

Editors of the Journal should get their facts straight. A recent Journal editorial calls the Academic Bill of Rights part of a "radical conservative agenda" and states that David Horowitz's "real aim is to suppress free speech and to prevent college professors from challenging students." These statements are fabrications.

The Academic Bill of Rights is strictly neutral with regard to political viewpoints and our organization, which is the sponsor of the bill, has defended both conservative and liberal students alike. In fact, the Bill specifically prohibits the consideration of political or ideological beliefs in hiring and tenure processes.

The Academic Bill of Rights was inspired by the academic freedom precepts of the American Association of University Professors which since 1940 has maintained that "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject." This is not a restriction on free speech. It is a standard of professional behavior that professors are obliged to observe in their classrooms. Moreover it is word for word the standard required of professors by the Faculty Handbook regulations of Ohio State, the University of Ohio, Bowling Green State University and many other Ohio campuses. Why didn't the Journal editors bother to check these facts before spreading misinformation on this subject?

In direct response to our efforts and those of the Ohio Senate sponsors of an academic bill of rights, the Inter-University Council of Ohio, an organization representing the state's colleges and universities passed a resolution last October stating that "Ohio's four year public universities welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas." It's one thing to fail to give us credit for inspiring this commitment; it's quite another to portray us as being opposed to something we inspired.


Sincerely,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom