Unheralded Victory for Academic Freedom in PA · 28 September 2006

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By Bill Steigerwald--Pittsburgh Tribune-Review--09/25/06

It's not often that David Horowitz comes through a town as big as Pittsburgh without causing a ruckus on a local college campus.
The conservative troublemaker isn't an American household name or face. But political junkies and devout watchers of C-SPAN sure know who he is.

So do college professors -- especially left-wing ones whose classroom propagandizing Horowitz seeks to put an end to by getting every U.S. university to implement an "Academic Bill of Rights" to protect students from being indoctrinated or graded unfairly because of their political views.

A reconstructed '60s radical, Horowitz, 67, is the combative columnist and author of such books as The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. The tireless culture warrior speaks at scores of campuses each year, edits Front Page Magazine (frontpagemag.com) and is founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center in Los Angeles.

National and local media have hardly reported a peep about it but Horowitz's one-man national crusade to promote intellectual freedom for college students won a major victory in Pennsylvania this summer.

After nearly a year of lobbying by Horowitz, state legislators passed a resolution built largely on Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" ideas that he says has made Pennsylvania a leader in bringing genuine intellectual freedom and diversity to academia.

An academic bill of rights, as drawn up by Horowitz, does more than protect students from professorial propaganda and unfair grading. It also seeks to end politically biased faculty practices that he says have resulted in conservative and Republican professors being outnumbered by liberals and Democrats by as much as 20-to-1.

Horowitz's enemies -- namely teachers unions and the 10 percent of left-wing profs he contends control most college liberal arts faculties -- call him a McCarthyite and argue his claims of bias and ideological discrimination against students are exaggerated.

But he persuaded state lawmakers otherwise. The Republican-dominated legislature overcame the "reprehensible" obstructionism of most Democrats and accomplished "a major achievement that nobody knows about," Horowitz said Monday in downtown Pittsburgh. "The Chronicle of Higher Education did not report this. None of the education papers have reported this."

Even better for Horowitz and his allies, on July 19 Temple University's trustees adopted the first student bill of rights in the country. It goes beyond a paper promise that students of both the Right and Left have the right not to be indoctrinated, Horowitz says. For the first time it provides students with the machinery to report violations directly to school trustees, who, he says, are invariably kept in the dark about ideological biases on most campuses.

"Temple is a huge change," Horowitz says with a rare smile. "I get great satisfaction out of that. Now it's up to students to stand up for themselves."

Horowitz isn't resting on his triumphs, however. His next task, he says, is to see that the other 17 public universities in the state adopt something like the Temple model. Then it's on to the other states with Republican legislative majorities to cajole and pressure their governors and university trustees.

"I believe this is going to set a national trend," Horowitz said with a youthful revolutionary twinkle in his eye. "Today Pennsylvania, tomorrow the country."


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Bill Steigerwald is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's associate editor. Call him at (412) 320-7983. E-mail him at: bsteigerwald@tribweb.com.