Response from Ball State University Provost Beverley Pitts · 12 October 2004

Provost and Vice President
Academic Affairs

September 23, 2004

Ms. Sara Dogan
Students for Academic Freedom
1015 15th St. NW, #900
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Ms. Dogan:

We appreciate your concerns about allegations made by Ball State student Brett Mock regarding his experiences in an Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution course taught by Professor George Wolfe last spring. Upon becoming aware of Mr. Mock's concerns, we did look into the matter as we do with any concern of this nature. Specifically, I have reviewed the syllabus for the course, spoken with Dr. Wolfe and his supervisor for this course, Dean Thomas Lowe, and have reviewed statements forwarded to me by other students in the class who wished to dispute the claims made by Mr. Mock in an article posted on Frontpagemag.com.

As a matter of background, the course in question in an interdisciplinary elective course open to any student. The course is described in the Undergraduate Catalog as focusing on "the study of methods of achieving peace within communities and among nation; history of peace movement and the causes of conflict; and analysis of principles to resolve conflict using case studies." Further, the emphasis on study of peace initiatives and mediation is clearly stated in the course goals on the syllabus. Dr. Wolfe has a doctorate in higher education from Indiana University; has received mediator training; is on the advisory board of the Toda Institute for Peace, Policy, and Global Research at the University of Hawaii; and has taught and published in the area of peace studies.

As is the case in any university course, we encourage open dialog and respect students' opinions. Grading is based on performance, not upon student or faculty opinion on specific issues or general ideology. I can assure you that we uphold this standard in all of our courses, and we have in place an appeal procedure for any student who believes his or her grade was unfairly determined. You can review this policy at http://www.bsu.edu/sa/article/0,1375,13330-2935-12310,00.html

Dr. Wolfe's class emphasizes critical thinking with respect to peace issues. The primary text for the class is Barash and Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Sage Publications, 2002), which presented various side of peace- and war-related issues. In addition, questions on the midterm and final examinations, course discussion questions, and descriptions of class discussions by other students clearly indicate that consideration of a wide range of viewpoints was accepted and encouraged.
The course does require a field assignment outside of class, but there are a variety of ways to fulfill this requirement, not simply the three identified by Mr. Mock. For example, some students choose to volunteer time to a cause related to social responsibility, such as a local food pantry, while others elect to attend a lecture of event dealing with political activism. As part of fulfilling his field assignment, Mr. Mock received credit for attending a meeting in Indianapolis at which Vice President Dick Cheney spoke.

Mr. Mock's assertion that students received extra credit for a university-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., for the purpose of protesting the war in Iraq is incorrect. Rather, three students in the course last spring chose to attend a lobbying workshop in Washington to learn the protocol for lobbying Congress. This opportunity, which was made available to all students, developed skill pertaining to lobbying that apply to all issues, independent of position. This experience fulfilled the field assignment, and travel support was provided to encourage attendance.

I hope that this response provides you with some facts that will be helpful to you in evaluating Mr. Mock's statements. We are confident that we clearly communicate to faculty our expectations and standards about academic freedom and respect for a diversity of opinions in the classroom.

Sincerely,

Beverley Pitts
Provost and Vice President
For Academic Affairs

cc: U.S. Senator Evan Bayh
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar
U.S. Senator Luke Kenley
Representative Gregory Porter
Mr. 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