GOP Takes on Leftist Education · 05 September 2003

Filed under: Press Coverage

GOP Takes on 'Leftist' Education

By Peggy Lowe, Rocky Mountain News, 09/06/03

Top Republican legislators are working on a plan that would require Colorado colleges and universities to seek more conservatives in faculty hiring, more classics in the curriculum and more "intellectual pluralism" among campus speakers.
Next year, the GOP leadership hopes to implement the "Academic Bill of Rights," which sets out "to secure the intellectual independence of faculty and students and to protect the principle of intellectual diversity."

In hatching the idea, Gov. Bill Owens and Republican legislators quietly met in June with David Horowitz, a controversial and outspoken Los Angeles conservative who is leading the national effort with his group called Students for Academic Freedom.
"Universities should not be indoctrination centers for the political left," Horowitz wrote in a letter to supporters.

"It should not be a fight for young students to get a complete education, to learn more than half the story," he wrote. "It shouldn't be a battle for conservatives or Christians to gain teaching positions, to have their work seriously considered, and to be tenured."

Senate President John Andrews, a Centennial Republican who attended a June 12 meeting with Horowitz at the Brown Palace Hotel, said he hopes to see some plan approved by either the colleges' governing bodies or the Colorado Commission on Higher Education - with legislative assistance - next year.

"I do agree with David Horowitz when he says that the longest-lasting and most brutally effective blacklist in American history has been that which has excluded conservative thought and voices more and more from American campuses since the '60s," Andrews said. "Blacklisting is the American way. We need to find a way to get beyond that."

Owens, in a separate meeting with Horowitz at the governor's statehouse office in June, had a general discussion on "the need for balance in higher education," said Dan Hopkins, Owens' spokesman. But Owens hasn't discussed any plans with Andrews and won't take a stand yet, Hopkins said.

"He rarely takes stands on anything at the conceptual stage," Hopkins said.

But Owens has been clear on the issue in the past, saying there are few to no Republican professors on state college campuses and liberal Democrats aren't offering balance in presenting political philosophy.

During a January appearance on Mike Rosen's KOA radio talk show, Owens said he had hoped his push for his friend Marc Holtzman to be president of Colorado State University would help achieve more philosophical balance among faculty there. The CSU board later chose someone else for the job.

Schools don't ask potential employees their political affiliation because a federal civil rights law prohibits it. But a recent survey by the Rocky Mountain News found that Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 in political science departments at large public colleges along the Front Range.

University officials view this as a perennial debate - Republicans charge that Democrats have a liberal lock on campuses across the country. But schools counter that the reason for fewer Republicans is obvious: Republicans are believers in private industry, not in a public service job that pays much less than the corporate world.

The GOP leadership in Colorado is expected during the 2004 legislative session to dovetail this issue with the larger one of affirmative action. Owens has said he would sign a bill that would bar Colorado colleges from using race as a factor in admissions.

While Andrews confirmed that he wants the Academic Bill of Rights pushed through next year, he denied he would want the schools' acceptance of it to be tied to their state funding, which the legislature sets.

But another Republican who attended the Horowitz meeting at the Brown Palace on June 12 said Andrews and others talked about how to force the schools to implement the plan.

"They had the discussion ... on how to put teeth into it, to make them accountable to the legislature and the governor, how to create it in such a way that it was enforceable and that the schools had to do it, so it wasn't just a nice warm-fuzzy statement," said Christopher Sanders, who helped Horowitz's office make arrangements for the meeting.

"The discussion involved their funding on an annual basis, when their budget is renewed."

When told that another attendee remembered him tying the plan to a school's funding, Andrews said he didn't recall it that way.
"I have heard no discussion at all with linking this to budget," Andrews said. "It doesn't sound like the right way to approach it to me."

Rep. Keith King, the House majority leader who also attended the Horowitz meeting, said he supports the Academic Bill of Rights but doesn't want to connect a school's funding to it.

Tim Foster, director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, said he's been working on the Academic Bill of Rights, but thinks Colorado leaders may want to change some of the language. The idea will be offered to the state college governing boards in the next few weeks to see if they like it, he said.

Foster also said he wouldn't support connecting the plan to a school's state funding. That would put a difficult standard in place that would be nearly impossible to measure, he said.

"That moves away from the philosophical statement David (Horowitz) is making," Foster said. "It starts to sound like quotas, doesn't it?"

Both the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, the state's largest colleges, were unaware of the plan. But both schools stressed they are already inviting speakers from all political spectrums.

"I am encouraged by the support of our political leaders to help develop a wide array of political speakers at the university," said CU President Betsy Hoffman.

"However, it is important to remember that we have hosted such luminaries in the recent past as Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, Charlton Heston, George Bush Sr. and Dinesh D'Souza to name a few," she said. "After all, a university is a place for people to examine and explore a wide range of political thought and philosophies."

Don Hamstra, president of the CSU Board of Governors and the former Republican mayor of Brighton, said Colorado campuses have never had the political controversies seen in other states. He wondered if such a plan is needed here.
"Colorado is a far more tolerant environment than other places that have received publicity," Hamstra said. "By and large, speakers of all different viewpoints have had forums in Colorado and espouse their views without harassment, which I think is right."