Fighting Bias is More Than Lip Service · 31 January 2006

Filed under: Press Coverage

By Nick Timiraos--The Georgetown Hoya--01/27/06

A conservative alumnus at UCLA withdrew an offer to pay students $100 to provide lecture notes from professors - presumably from the left - who made non-pertinent, ideological remarks in class, but not before he whipped up a media storm last week that focused attention on the dearth of conservatives in academia.

The alumnus, Andrew Jones, went about addressing a valid issue in all the wrong ways.

He did manage to point out the obvious. College campuses are incredibly politicized. And no one knows what to do about it.

In particular, Jones objected to liberal professors who use their classes to indoctrinate - a physics professor, for example, who goes on diatribes against President Bush that have little to do with physics.

The politicization goes beyond calls for academic freedom and balance. Most calls for diversity on college campuses don't care about intellectual diversity, only racial and ethnic (and possibly gender and sexual orientation) forms.

Last year, Georgetown's student government devised the ingenious "OrangeBand Initiative," distributing bands that students wore to promote the respect of "diverse ideas." (The program was inane from the start. Wouldn't it be safe to operate from the assumption that most college students value "diverse ideas"?)

Last year, when DAYS ON THE HILLTOP columnist Josh Zumbrun criticized, among other beauties, the double-standard of Georgetown's minority newspaper or the tit-for-tat squabbles of Israeli and Palestinian student groups, he earned a harsh rebuttal from, among other beauties, the student body president, whose administration had launched the project.

Zumbrun's attempt to create a thought-provoking dialogue was met not with like-minded debate but with a condemnation for even suggesting that certain student groups weren't beyond criticism.

So much for respecting diverse ideas.

Conservative activist David Horowitz has promoted an "Academic Bill of Rights" in state legislatures that aims to improve "a bad and deteriorating situation on our campuses," he wrote in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times.

Horowitz argues that the bill of rights is needed because there is a minority of professors that confuses "political consciousness-raising with education." He cited the example of Ward Churchill, a Colorado professor and then-Ethnic Studies department chair who went on a rant last year, calling the victims of Sept. 11 "little Eichmanns" and arguing that America deserved worse.

"The Churchill problem is not unique to Colorado but reflects a systemwide intellectual corruption in the academic world," Horowitz wrote. "Churchill could not have been hired, promoted, given tenure or been made chairman of his department without the support of his entire department, his dean, the university administration and about a dozen scholars in the field of ethnic studies, all of whom would have had to support him in each step of the process."

Horowitz's push to return intellectual diversity is well-intentioned, but giving control of curricula to the government isn't the soundest (or most conservative) approach.

Georgetown students tried to push their own academic freedom resolution through the Student Assembly last week. The resolution wouldn't have done anything (GUSA rivals the United Nations in futility), but the fact that it failed to pass shows how some students deny that campus politicization even exists.

Conservatives say they want to return balance to the ivory tower, and if that's the case, great.

I'd love to see more conservatives choosing to join higher education or other traditionally liberal professions, such as journalism.

But that's unlikely to happen. For starters, many conservatives could care less about having a neutral higher education system as much as they could care less about having a neutral press.

When conservatives complain about a liberal media, for example, what they mean is that they want a conservative media, not a neutral one.

Need an example? Turn on Fox News, probably the most biased channel broadcast over airwaves since National Public Radio (and this isn't to say that both don't provide sharp political analysis).

And as college journalism shows all too often, conservatives would rather write for conservative journals than for mainstream college newspapers. Fine. Just don't complain about an imbalance on the editorial page.

So unless conservatives choose to enter academia, it may be a fact of life that conservatives are going to have to put up with liberals. But that doesn't mean conservatives have to stand by when they smell indoctrination.

Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 for a class? Let classmates know how Michael Moore shamefully manipulates the footage and the facts.

Hear an under-the-breath comment? Make a professor defend it. (A student did just that in one of my classes, and the professor backed off the comment, humbled by a freshman.)

Events like tomorrow's "Take Back Georgetown Day" are a good start. Building a culture that esteems intellectual diversity won't happen overnight.

And it won't be achieved with $100 payments or the help of state legislatures. It requires the dedicated efforts of faculty and students, from the left and the right, to make sure that the university remains a place where all ideas - not just the politically correct - get a fair hearing.


Nick Timiraos is a senior in the College and a former editor in chief of THE HOYA. He can be reached at DAYS ON THE HILLTOP appears every Friday.