Response from GA Tech Provost McMath to SAF, 09/23/04 · 23 September 2004

September 23, 2004

Ms. Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom
1015 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Ms. Dogan:

Thank you for your follow-up letter regarding our policies on intellectual diversity.

Until this latest correspondence, I had appreciated what I thought was a constructive dialogue on how to best ensure intellectual freedom in the classroom. We share similar objectives. Georgia Tech has a history of commitment to protecting intellectual and personal freedom. Our policies related thereto have been in place for more than two decades. They are, I believe, sound policies that have stood the test of time thus far and have proved valuable in mediating difficult decisions.

Thus, I am disappointed by your dismissal of our policies, the questioning of our motives, and your extended monologue on the shortcomings of a university with which you have little knowledge. That is indeed unfortunate, as it cheapens the dialogue and insults the intelligence of all of those whom you draw into it. I have found over the years that working with people in a constructive fashion is almost universally more effective than a more ill informed, confrontational approach.

Sadly, such was the tone of your most recent letter. You do a disservice to this university and to those you seek to inform. For more than 100 years, Georgia Tech has educated technological leaders and served as an economic development engine for Georgia and our nation. Our alumni as a group are outstanding citizens who thrive in their communities because they were educated in accordance with sound policies that were practiced with fairness and without bias.

Your letter restates the essence of a six-month-old newspaper account of a student disagreement with a professor on campus. We took the allegations seriously and as soon as it was directly reported to us, we launched a thorough investigation by an independent reviewer to determine if there was indeed political, religious, or cultural discrimination in this particular classroom. After interviews with the principals and more than half the students in the class, the investigation found no credible evidence of any such discrimination. While the results of that investigation are not nearly as "newsworthy" as the initial allegations, they remain a valid and important conclusion.

Second, you accuse this institution of political favoritism because Molly Ivins and Cynthia McKinney have spoken on our campus. Both of those women have spoken here within the last few years, but you conveniently overlook the totality of the record.
President Bush has been to our campus twice in the last three years, once to see firsthand the important research Georgia Tech is conducting in the area of homeland security, while also delivering an important policy address on international terrorism. (Our President, Dr. G. Wayne Clough, was also appointed by President Bush to serve on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a friend of a number of our faculty and delivered the first-ever Commencement speech broadcast from Georgia Tech on the World Wide Web. Senator Elizabeth Dole was a recent graduation speaker and her husband, Bob, spoke to our students during his presidential campaign. Former Representative Bob Barr spoke here on the issue of civil liberties. Governor Sonny Perdue makes frequent appearances on campus, has four Georgia Tech alumni as senior policy advisors, and delivered a recent Commencement address. In the corporate world, we have been proud to feature people like Bob Nardelli, CEO of Home Depot and one of the most generous contributors to the President's campaign for re-election; Mike Duke, President and CEO of Wal-Mart Store division; Jack Welch, former CEO of the General Electric Corporation; and Dave Dorman, Chairman of the Board and CEO of AT&T.

I could continue, but I think that the point is obvious. Georgia Tech strives to bring people of all backgrounds and opinions to our campus in an effort to educate students. We want them to hear a range of viewpoints and be informed so they can make up their own minds about which ones best represents the right way for our nation. We are proud of that effort and will continue to strive for compelling discussions through a broad array of speakers and events.

We care deeply about intellectual diversity and freedom of speech for all students, faculty, and staff. We have policies in place that reflect that and have stood the test of time in their application.

We are not perfect. But we are proud of our 119-year history of accomplishment in educating young Georgians and contributing to the technological and economic advancement of our state and nation. By any measure, we are very much a university on the rise within American higher education.


Robert McMath
Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Studies
Georgia Institute of Technology

cc: Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Senator Zell Miller, U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, Ben Scaffity (Education Advisor to Governor Perdue), U.S. Representative Jack Kingston, U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop, U.S. Representative Jim Marshall, U.S. Representative Denise Majette, U.S. Representative John Lewis, U.S. Representative Johnny Isakson, U.S. Representative John Linder, U.S. Representative Mac Collins, U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood, U.S. Representative Nathan Deal, U.S. Representative Phil Gingrey, U.S. Representative Max Burns, U.S. Representative David Scott, State Senator Eric Johnson, State Senator Bill Hamrick, State Senator and Senate Education Committee Chair B. Joseph Brush, State Senator Vincent D. Fort, State Representative and House Higher Education Committee Chair Louise McBee, State Representative Mable Thomas, State Representative LaNett Stanley-Turner, Georgia College Republican State Chairman Britton Alexander, Dean Stephanie Ray, Ruth Malhotra (Georgia Tech Student), President of Century Strategies Ralph Reed, Mr. Bob Harty, Executive Director, Institute Communications and Public Affairs, Mr. Andrew Harris, Director, Government Relations, Ms. Patty Barlett, Senior Research Associate