Students for Academic Freedom Second Year Achievement Report · 06 June 2005

Filed under: Reports
Principal Achievements:


• The creation of over 150 chapters on college and university campuses across the country. Among the schools organized are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Brown, UCLA, and Georgia Tech.

• These chapters are collecting documentation of political abuses in the classroom and advocating passage of the Academic Bill of Rights. In addition, many students have taken on additional projects to illustrate the lack of intellectual diversity and academic freedom on their campuses, including research into the distribution of student activities fees and the organization of "intellectual diversity days" and other campus events.

• The Academic Bill of Rights has already achieved legislative success in two states, Georgia and Colorado. In Colorado, a statutory bill based on the Academic Bill of Rights passed that state's House Education Committee and was well on its way to becoming law when the presidents of Colorado's major public universities agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to institute the key principles of the Academic Bill of Rights in their respective educational institutions in exchange for the bill being withdrawn. And in Georgia, the state senate passed a resolution based on the Academic Bill of Rights by a vote of 41-5 in the spring of 2004.

• Up to sixteen additional states have followed the lead set by Colorado and Georgia. Legislators from Maine to Florida to California have introduced legislative bills directly inspired by the Academic Bill of Rights. The Congressional Higher Education Re-Authorization Act also contains similar language based on the ABOR. While legislation is not our preferred course of action, when professors and administrators neglect their duty to protect the academic freedom of students in public educational institutions, the legislature has a responsibility to respond and ensure that public tax monies are not being used for partisan ends. Legislators in several states, including Maine, Florida, California, and Ohio held hearings on the Academic Bill of Rights which brought to light the disgraceful and discriminatory attitudes that some in the professoriate show towards their students for their political or religious views. These hearings have helped to lay the groundwork for the protection of students in the future and further legislative action on this issue.

• At Brooklyn College this year, administrators responded to a request from the campus chapter of Students for Academic Freedom and agreed to alter the professor evaluation surveys handed out to students at the end of each term to include a question asking students to rate the instructor's openness to students' comments, questions and viewpoints expressed in class. An even greater victory for academic freedom occurred in April, when the Student Assembly passed a Defense of Academic Freedom Act based on the Academic Bill of Rights.

• At Georgia Tech, the Student Government Association and the Diversity Forum on campus sponsored a town hall meeting on the topic of academic freedom. Georgia Tech came under much criticism last year, when it was revealed that student Ruth Malhotra was threatened with (and subsequently received) a failing grade from her public policy professor because she attended a conservative political conference in Washington, DC. Dean of Diversity Issues Stephanie Ray explained the university's reasons for holding the forum, explaining that despite the Senate resolution last year, academic freedom "hadn't been addressed on this campus in any shape, form or fashion." That a non-partisan education forum on academic freedom could be held at Georgia Tech and officially sponsored by the university and attended by high-ranking administrators, demonstrates that significant positive changes have taken place in the short span of one year.

• Bradley Alexander, a sophomore history major at the University of Georgia, also contacted SAF after attending the first lecture of a course on World Wars I and II only to find himself subjected to a hostile and profanity-laced tirade on why the President and Vice-President are "chicken-s-t" from his professor, John Morrow. Bradley challenged the professor's partisan remarks and his profanity, but his objections were summarily dismissed by the professor, and he withdrew from the class. Morrow later defended his political comments and profanity in an article on the History News Network. Students for Academic Freedom contacted the university administration and helped to spark media coverage of the incident. The attention brought to this issue by Students for Academic Freedom and Frontpage Magazine convinced the University of Georgia to take Bradley's complaint seriously and launch an official investigation. Following this inquiry by the Office of Legal Affairs and a high-level faculty committee, Dr. Morrow was advised by the Dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences that gratuitous profanity is not appropriate in the classroom, and that he should take care to recognize the power differential inherent in the academic environment between faculty and students.

• At California State University-Long Beach, student Marissa Freimanis contacted SAF after her English Professor Jerome Snider forbid his students from considering conservative perspectives. Outlining the rules for writing an "argument paper" in his class syllabus, Snider declared that his students must avoid "topics on which there is, in my opinion, no other side apart from chauvinistic, religious or bigoted opinions and pseudo-science" and lumped together as examples of these supposedly illegitimate views "female circumcision, prayer in public schools, same-sex marriage, the so-called faith-based initiative, abortion, hate crime laws, the existence of the Holocaust and so-called creationism." Students for Academic Freedom helped to publicize Marissa's case, bringing national media attention and scrutiny to Snider's classroom indoctrination, and leading him to apologize in class and alter his website.

• Students for Academic Freedom came to the defense of Ahmad al-Qloushi, a Kuwaiti Muslim who first came to American only nine months ago to enroll at Foothill College in California. Ahmad signed up for an "Introduction to American Government and Politics" taught by Professor Joseph Woolcock, but was shocked to find that the course was taught from a consistently anti-American perspective. The final straw came when the class was instructed to complete a take-home final exam which asked students to "Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded the majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America's elite interest." Ahmad chose to write an essay defending America's Founding Fathers and upholding the Constitution as a progressive document which has contributed to freedom beyond America's borders, but Professor Woolcock refused to grade the essay, claiming that Ahmad needed "regular psychotherapy" and threatened him by stating that he would visit the Dean of International Admissions (who has the power to take away student visas) to make sure he received regular psychological treatment. Students for Academic Freedom helped to make Ahmad's case a national media story, resulting in hundreds of emails sent to Foothill's board of trustees. Ahmed is now planning to start a chapter of Students for Academic Freedom at Foothill and to continue to encourage Foothill's trustees to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights.

• Ball State University student Brett Mock contacted us this year with a shocking tale of partisan classroom indoctrination. While enrolled in Professor George Wolfe's peace studies class, Brett was held captive to Wolfe's radical view that war can never be used as an instrument of peace. Professor Wolfe offered extra credit to students who attended a university-sponsored trip to Washington, DC for the purpose of protesting the war in Iraq and used his position to recruit students to radical organizations. Though he holds the title of Director of the BSU Peace Studies Center, Wolfe, a saxophonist and professor of music, possesses no legitimate qualifications to hold this position. Students for Academic Freedom wrote several letters to the Ball State University administration, protesting this violation of Brett's academic freedom and urging them to conduct an investigation and adopt the Academic Bill of Rights. When our efforts were met with resistance, SAF launched a full-scale campaign in Indiana to raise public awareness of the "Peace Studies" indoctrination program, culminating in the release of the 57-page booklet "Indoctrination or Education? The 'Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution' Program at Ball State University" and numerous articles in the local media.

Additional achievements:

• SAF has also conducted an in-depth research campaign into the existing academic freedom policies and guidelines at public universities in several states and has repeatedly found that they support the language and intent of the Academic Bill of Rights. These policies make absurd the objections of critics who claim that the Academic Bill of Rights would unfairly restrict professors' right to free speech in the classroom. As we have shown, the existing policies on many campuses are much more stringent in forbidding partisan speech and propagandizing than our Bill or any of the state legislation inspired by it. SAF's research has revealed that these existing policies are usually hidden away in faculty handbooks or obscure sections of the university regulations where students are unlikely to find them. They are often phrased as faculty responsibilities, and not as student rights, and there are no specific grievance procedures available to students whose professors have failed to live up to the standards set for them. The Academic Bill of Rights would remedy this disconnect between existing policy and practice.

• Further confirmation that SAF's ideas and rhetoric are beginning to take hold among the mainstream was witnessed this year when Columbia University's mainstream student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, published a staff editorial heralding the need for greater intellectual diversity on campus, and citing the lack of conservative professors in the humanities as a particular challenge on that campus. "In all other areas of campus life, students do not hesitate to call for diversity," stated the editorial. "There is no reason why these same arguments should not apply to conservative professors in the humanities." At Brown University, which was shown in a 2003 CSPC study to be the most politically one-sided of the Ivies, President Ruth Simmons devoted the majority of her Spring Semester Opening Address to issues of intellectual diversity and academic freedom. She also announced positive steps to promote greater intellectual diversity on campus, including the creation of a fund dedicated to bringing a broader variety of speakers to campus.

• Campus chapters of Students for Academic Freedom have continued to introduce the Academic Bill of Rights in their student governments to great effect. Among the schools passing a version of the bill this year are Brooklyn College, Middle Tennessee State University, Tufts University, Bates College, and Pennsylvania State University.

• The president of the SAF chapter at Florida State University conducted a study illustrating the large disparity in distribution of student activities fee money at his school and showing that campus leftists receive between six and ten times as much money as is provided to campus conservatives.

• Members of the Yale chapter of SAF conducted a survey of their fellow students' experiences in the classroom which was printed as an article in the Yale Free Press and later featured in the Wall Street Journal as part of an editorial on academic freedom.

• Together with Ball State SAF leader Brett Mock, SAF worked to expose the ideological agendas in Ball State's "Freshman Connections Program" which requires all new students at Ball State to read an assigned book or "common reader," which for the last two years has meant a text from the radical left. Despite the great importance of choosing the text or texts for this program wisely, Brett's report revealed that Ball State has failed dramatically in this arena. During the past two years, the program has required students to read consecutive texts from the radical left; yet in all eight years of the program's existence, students have never been assigned to read a conservative work. Our work in Indiana led legislators there to introduce legislation inspired by the Academic Bill of Rights.

• Students for Academic Freedom has also expanded its focus to include a new program, Parents and Students for Academic Freedom, dedicated to combating indoctrination and promoting diversity of viewpoint in the K-12 schools. Already, this new initiative has received an enthusiastic response from parents across the country, dozens of whom have contacted our offices seeking copies of our new booklet and advice on fighting to ensure their children's right to a non-partisan education. We have also provided legislators across the nation with sample legislation for a K-12 academic bill of rights and expect to see action on this in several state legislatures in the coming year.

• Since its launch in July 2003, the www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org website has become a leading destination for students and advocates of the academic freedom movement. The site has been viewed by over 450,000 unique visitors, for a total of over 4 million hits, averaging out to over 100,000 page views per month.

Press comments on Students for Academic Freedom:

• The nation's most prominent publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Los Angeles Times have all taken note of SAF's remarkable record of achievement. Hundreds of articles chronicling our mission and activities have been printed in local and national papers in the last year alone. International coverage has also appeared in the London Times and The Australian.

• "I wish to hail David Horowitz's latest project, his 'Academic Bill of Rights,' a proposal from Students for Academic Freedom," wrote Jay Nordlinger, the managing editor of National Review magazine. "The idea is to promote genuine diversity - diversity of thought - on campus. And to protect students and faculty from ideological bullying (of which I, like many others, got huge doses while in college….This is a hugely important effort."

• "David Horowitz sure knows how to make college administrators squirm," commented an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. "The talent dates from his radical days in the early 1960s, when as a grad student he found himself hauled before Berkeley officials upset at a protest he had organized without first getting a permit. More than four decades later he's still unsettling the campus hierarchy, but this time it's over something it is already supposed to believe in: academic freedom."

• "Such self-censorship [from conservative students] may become rarer, thanks in large part to several national organizations whose efforts to bring diversity of thought to academe are starting to pay off….Perhaps most significant is Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), founded in 2003 and already boasting 130 campus chapters. Its key initiative is a campaign for an "Academic Bill of Rights," which enjoins universities not to deny tenure or fail to hire teachers solely because of their "retrograde" conservative politics, and to ensure that teachers keep their classes from becoming left-wing propaganda sessions." -Brian Anderson, City Journal

• "The spread of an ideological monoculture through broad reaches of academe is the prime example. One waits, of course, at length if need be, for remedial action to be taken within the university. By far the best course would be for something like the [Academic Bill of Rights] to be adopted by a faculty senate or governing board. But when that doesn't happen, as thus far it has not, legislative initiative presents a last, but legitimate, alternative." -Stephen Balch, President, National Association of Scholars, NAS Online Forum

• "But lately there have been stirrings of an actual strategy for remaking academia--a mix of government action, intervention by alumni and trustees, and the use of the left-wing "diversity" mantra to press for greater conservative representation in the one-party state that is the American university. Much of this newfound assertiveness is the work of the indefatigable David Horowitz, whose proposed "Academic Bill of Rights"-currently being considered in the legislatures of 16 states-offers a case study in how the promotion of diversity can be turned to the right's advantage." --Ross Douthat, The New Republic Online

Conclusion:

In its second academic year, Students for Academic Freedom has secured its reputation as the leader of the burgeoning academic freedom movement. "Intellectual diversity" is now a topic of concern for college administrators across the nation and a newly energized and informed body of students is emerging. As we carry this momentum into our third academic year, SAF is working on several new initiatives to defeat partisanship in American education at all levels of instruction, including helping students to launch "Diversity Enrichment Programs" on their campuses: conferences or series of lectures that addresses deficiencies in students' education and exposes them to under-represented views, and the launch of a new campaign for the "Two R's": Equality of Resources and Respect.