Activist Blasts KU Women's Studies Program · 15 March 2006

Filed under: Kansas, Press Coverage

University defends integrity against conservative's comments

By Sophia Maines--LJWorld--03/16/06

Topeka - A nationally known conservative activist shopped his "Academic Bill of Rights" to the Kansas Statehouse on Wednesday, charging that Kansas University and other state colleges indoctrinate their students with liberal ideologies.

David Horowitz's campaign - which focused on women's studies programs at KU and Kansas State - came during "KU Day" at the Capitol, a chance for the university to promote itself to legislators making key budget decisions for 2007. Instead of simply celebrating, though, KU officials found themselves defending the university's academic integrity.

"Academic freedom is what we're all about," Ann Cudd, director of KU's Women's Studies program, said in a call from Lawrence.

But Horowitz, who has proposed his "bill of rights" in several states during recent years, thought otherwise.

"What I'm arguing is so nonradical," Horowitz said, after speaking to a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. "I know that I'm painted by my opponents in these extreme ways, but it's all smoke. I want them to live up to their own standards."

And he might have an ear in the Kansas Legislature.

"It's really the university's job to teach students not what to think, but how to examine academic subjects critically," said Rep. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee. "I think we've gotten away from that in some cases. It's too easy to lose our focus and start teaching ideology."

The Kansas proposal, House Concurrent Resolution 5035, states that faculty should not force their opinions on others, and that academic disciplines should welcome diverse approaches.

"I think it's simply unnecessary," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said of the proposal.

In a released statement, Kansas Board of Regents President Reggie Robinson said the regents already have policies in place to protect academic freedom.

"While legislative interest in this area is understandable, even the most carefully crafted move toward state involvement in this realm poses risks that could undermine the very academic freedom values we all cherish," Robinson said.

Horowitz brandished research about social work and women's studies programs at KU and Kansas State University during his visit Wednesday.

He noted that K-State's women's studies course descriptions require students to demonstrate an understanding of heterosexism and oppression of women - calling those requirements a partisan view of controversial issues. He said the program is designed to recruit students to radical feminist causes and political agendas, and that KU's program is designed the same way.

Charlene Muehlenhard, KU professor of women's studies and psychology, said she didn't understand Horowitz's charges.

"I don't consider myself a radical feminist," she said. "That's not what we teach in our classes. ... I'd say he's pretty much speaking out of ignorance. It doesn't sound that he knows much about our women's studies program."