Letter to Legislators: Academic Freedom · 06 December 2004

My name is Sara Dogan and I am the National Director of Students for Academic Freedom, which has 135 chapters on as many university campuses. I am writing to call your attention to a troubling situation at Ball State University in regard to its "Peace Studies and Conflict" program. It is our belief that while funded by Ball State University and the taxpayers of Indiana this is not a proper academic program but an indoctrination effort by political radicals to recruit students to their radical agendas, which include sympathy for the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11 and for political organizations with radical agendas.

It is our view, moreover, that Professor George Wolfe who is in charge of the program is not academically qualified to teach the subject matter of the course, namely the social, economic and political causes of war and peace. Professor Wolfe was hired to the Ball State Faculty as a member of its Music Department where he is a professor of the saxophone. His degree is in education rather than, history, sociology, political science, anthropology, military science, economics or any other field that might be appropriate to the important and in this historical moment grave matters at issue in this course.

It is our view that the textbook used by Professor Wolfe for this course (Barash and Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies) is not an appropriate academic text, but a one-sided primer in radical ideology, whose treatment of history is unscholarly and tendentious. The authors of this text have academic degrees in psychology and philosophy which does not qualify them to write a text which covers most of human history, and includes commentaries on economics, anthropology, sociology and a broad range of geopolitical matters.

The problematic nature of the Peace Studies Program at Ball State was brought to our attention by Ball State senior Brett A. Mock, a political science major who signed up for the course intending to pursue a minor in peace studies. Here is a portion of Brett Mock's report on his experience in Professor Wolfe's class:

My name is Brett Mock. I am a senior Political Science major at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. In the spring of 2004, I took a class taught by Professor George Wolfe. The class, titled "Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution," was the introductory class for a Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution minor that I took as a supplement to my major. I quickly learned that in this course, the phrase "conflict resolution" as used in the description of the course was not to be taken in a literal sense. The only studying of conflict resolution that we did was to enforce the idea that non-violent means were the only legitimate sources of self-defense. In other words, the class was designed entirely to de-legitimize the use of the military in the defense of our country altogether. This seemed to me to be indoctrination rather than education.

Professor Wolfe would not allow any serious study of the reasons for the use of force in response to an attack... Every book suggested by Professor Wolfe for class readings supported his extreme viewpoint. When the book reports were completed, each student was made to give an oral presentation. In other words, students like me had to read a book we disagreed with and then report on the book parroting back views we did not agree with or face a hostile professor with the power of grading us and do so in front the entire class, whose views were also shaped by the professor's intolerance of any dissenting view.

Professor Wolfe founded and heads the 'Peace Workers group' at Ball State...Wolfe brings his extra-curricular involvement into the classroom and makes it part of a student's grade. In order to receive full credit in the class you must choose to be involved in one of the programs he actively promotes. You have to devote a semester to Peace Workers events; you must meditate at the Peace Studies center (which you must also pay for), or you must attend Interfaith Fellowship meetings during the semester. Failure to do so will result in a lowered grade. This is simply another way in which Professor Wolfe attempts to indoctrinate his students, forcing them to be a part of his projects.

The organization to which Professor Wolfe appears to be recruiting students "PeaceWorkers" is a radical group which is part of a coalition of radical groups that includes the Muslim Students Association, a group that has promoted terrorist speakers, and the Young Communist League. We do not believe that it is appropriate for professors to recruit students to partisan political organizations or to use their authority as faculty at a state university to do so.

Our research has shown that there are at least a dozen Peace Studies programs at other Indiana colleges and universities, including at DePauw University, Notre Dame, Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Goshen College and Manchester College. Moreover, our organization has gathered information that indicates the widespread abuse of academic freedom in other departments and courses. One-sided teaching and political recruitment in classrooms violates the spirit and tenets of academic freedom that have been established over the last hundred years in American universities.

As a step towards remedying these abuses, we call upon the legislature and state education officials to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights, a document that has already become the education policy of the State of Colorado and that has been adopted as model legislation by the Association of Legislative Exchange Commissions (ALEC) a bi-partisan organization of 2400 state legislators. The Academic Bill of Rights has also passed the Georgia Senate by a vote of 41-5 and is currently being introduced in 19 state legislatures.

Sara Dogan
National Director
Students for Academic Freedom