Horowitz Pushes 'Academic Bill of Rights' · 15 March 2006

Filed under: Kansas, Press Coverage

By Chris Green--Harris News Service--03/16/06

TOPEKA - A conservative activist told a House committee Wednesday that the Legislature should support an "academic bill of rights" to promote freedom of thought at colleges and universities.

David Horowitz, founder of the nonprofit Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles, told the House budget panel that faculty on the nation's campuses seek to indoctrinate students with "radical liberal" views.

Conservative viewpoints tend to be disparaged or ignored by predominantly liberal faculty members, even in Kansas, he said.

The committee is considering a resolution that would spell out expectations for academic balance and professionalism at public universities. But it wouldn't require them.

Horowitz said the proposal would be the first step to stop professors from pushing their political views on students when controversial issues come up.

"No society can survive if its schools become one-sided indoctrination centers against it," said Horowitz, a self-described former leftist.

Horowitz also recommended that the state, including the Board of Regents, take steps to increase oversight of campuses to ensure academic freedom.

However, Board of Regents President Reggie Robinson said in a statement Wednesday that strong policies already exist.

"The best and most appropriate guarantors of academic freedom are the state's higher educational institutions themselves," Robinson said.

Joe Yanick, an Emporia State University mathematics professor, said lawmakers should trust the professional judgments of professors.

"The purpose of academic freedom is to create, as much as possible, a true 'marketplace of ideas' where superior ideas eventually triumph," Yanick said. "It is not intended to treat all opinions as equal."

During his presentation, Horowitz said he had learned through a Web search of academic programs in Kansas that some had a "radical feminist" or "socialist" bent. The disciplines he named included the women's studies programs at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University and a K-State social work program.

All appeared to have an ideological agenda or utilized what he considered biased, irrelevant course materials, Horowitz said.

Some members of the committee expressed skepticism at Horowitz's comments, noting they didn't see schools churning out liberal Democrats.

"If Kansas universities are really doing that, they're doing a really poor job," Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said.

Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff, R-Wichita, said she didn't recognize Horowitz's portrayal of courses at her alma mater, KSU.

"I'd almost thought I was going to a school in California," Pottorff said.

But a supporter of the legislation, Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, said she thought Horowitz's findings were revealing.

"I was, frankly, pretty surprised at what you've been able to discover," Cook said.

House Appropriation Chairman Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said the committee could revisit the resolution next week to see if there's enough support to advance it.