Response to Ball State Provost Beverley Pitts · 06 October 2004


Editor's note: Several weeks ago, Students for Academic Freedom was notified of a blatant example of classroom indoctrination at Ball State University by Professor George Wolfe. We sent a letter to Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora and received a response from Provost Beverley Pitts. The following is our response to Dr. Pitts.

October 5, 2004

Dr. Beverley Pitts
Provost and Vice President
for Academic Affairs
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 47306

Dear Dr. Pitts,

Thank you for your response to my previous letter concerning the Peace Studies Center at Ball State University and our concerns regarding BSU student Brett Mock's experiences in Professor George Wolfe's Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution class.

I am pleased to hear that Ball State University thought it important to look into the questions raised by the Frontpage Magazine article and my letter to you on this subject. I am concerned, however, by the fact that this investigation was apparently conducted without the knowledge or the input of Brett Mock, the student whose concerns sparked the need for an inquiry in the first place. You note that you took the time to interview Dr. Wolfe, Dean Lowe, and other students from the course who disputed Mr. Mock's claims. Surely you could have made time to speak with Mr. Mock directly, to alert him that Ball State was investigating his concerns and to allow him the opportunity to present any additional evidence pertaining to his allegations, before dismissing the matter entirely.

Our concern as an organization is the protection of students' academic freedom. The fact that the Ball State Administration would draw conclusions in this case without even consulting the student who is making the complaint is very troubling.

I have spoken with Mr. Mock and he has possession of many additional pieces of evidence to support his claims, including a class syllabus and copies of several papers he wrote for the class containing comments by Professor Wolfe which illustrate Professor Wolfe's failure to consider the idea that force can ever be a means to resolving conflicts or keeping the peace. This is an extreme view to begin with and the fact that Professor
Wolfe seems unable to tolerate a contrary view seems inappropriate to a scholarly institution. I urge you to reopen your investigation into this matter, and to take the time to interview Brett Mock and examine the relevant documents pertaining to this course.

Although you claim that Professor Wolfe's class emphasized critical thinking and was not politically one-sided, the links included on the course website suggest otherwise. In particular, the PeaceWorkers website, which is listed very prominently on the Center's main page, contains links to radical anti-war organizations like MoveOn.org, the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, while no links to organizations supporting the American government's efforts to broker peace in the Middle East or the American military's efforts combat terror can be found. The description of the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Minor that is posted on the site also differs significantly with the description in the student course guide, and states that the minor "examines proposals and attempts to introduce more equitable, harmonious and nonviolent methods and identifies individual action to transform unjust, violent or oppressive situations." This is the description of an ideological course committed to pacifism, again not an academic or scholarly examination of the questions of war and peace.

Regarding the University-sponsored trip to Washington, the PeaceWorkers website refers to this as an "annual" event that they attend. According to Mr. Mock, the students who attended are all members of PeaceWorkers, a leftwing activist group, who not only received the required field credit, but actually received extra course credit for attending this event. Given the radically anti-war nature of the PeaceWorkers website, it is reasonable to assume the other students would be extremely uncomfortable attending an official function with the group if they did not share its views, and might not realize it to be an option.

I find incomprehensible your claim that Dr. Wolfe who was hired by Ball State as a saxophone teacher is sufficiently qualified to teach Peace Studies and serve as the director of the Peace Studies Center, which purports to examine issues of war and peace, race conflict, and "oppression." You mention his doctorate in higher education and his experience as a mediator. Clearly the former has no bearing on the causes of war, while the latter is not an academic credential or degree for teaching any subject, including mediation. If universities hired people because they merely had "experience" in certain areas without formal academic credentials, their own credentialing would be jeopardized. Professor Wolfe's biography on his official BSU homepage makes no mention of any degrees related to Peace Studies, and identifies him as a saxophonist and an associate professor of music. Placing him in charge of a course that purports to deal with the history and nature of war and its social sources is an abuse of the students who pay tuition to attend Ball State and a misuse of the funds provided by Indiana taxpayers.

Finally, as would have been clear if you had spoken with Mr. Mock directly, the issue at stake is not a grading dispute. Mr. Mock openly acknowledges that he received a B+ in the class, and believes that grade to be fair. His concern in regard to grades is that he was forced to parrot the opinions of his professor which were not his own in order to get a good grade. Other relevant issues in this case are 1.) The failure of Professor Wolfe's class to examine non-peaceful resolutions to conflict, 2.) Professor Wolfe's questionable qualifications to teach this course, and 3.) Course requirements which mandated students to accept controversial political positions as fact.

Unfortunately this practice seems to be widespread at Ball State. Today FrontPage has published an exchange between Brett Mock and another student at Ball State, who is also a columnist for the school paper, David Swindle. In the exchange Mr. Swindle says of Mock's enrolment in the Peace Studies Program: "In going into those kinds of courses wouldn't you expect the ideology to be somewhat leftist? Isn't that like a communist student taking a course in capitalism? Of course capitalism is going to be promoted as the only option. The course wouldn't be about other economic systems." Mr. Swindle goes on to ask: "Isn't all education indoctrination?"

This is a very sad commentary on the educational atmosphere at your school. Students like David Swindle apparently have no idea that the American educational system is different from that in totalitarian states where education is indeed indoctrination.

These are very serious matters. We urge you to reopen the investigation into Professor Wolfe's class and the Peace Studies Center at Ball State. We request that you appoint an Academic Committee to examine the curriculum of the Peace Studies Program in order to assess its appropriateness as an academic course of study given its present one-sided nature and to make necessary recommendations for bringing it up to academic standards. We would hope that such a committee would be composed at least half by professors in the hard sciences and professional schools and not in liberal arts programs which are subject to ideological bias. We would like Ball State to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights, which I have attached, and to immediately issue a policy statement asserting that intellectual diversity is a primary educational value and the university is not to be used as a partisan political platform.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom

CC: U.S. Senator Evan Bayh, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, State Senate Education Committee Chair Luke Kenley, State House Education Committee Chair Gregory Porter, Governor Kernan's Education Advisor Floyd Worley, Mr. Thomas L. DeWeese, Mr. Frank A. Bracken, Mr. Gregory A Schenkel, Mr. Hollis E. Hughes Jr., Dr. Ceola Digby-Berry, Mrs. Kimberly Hood Jacobs, Mr. Richard L. Moake, Mr. Kyle Mitchell, Mr. Greg Fehribach, Mr. Brett Mock, Dr. George Wolfe, Dean Thomas Lowe, President Jo Ann Gora