Education or Indoctrination at U. Hawaii · 18 February 2004

Filed under: Press Coverage


SAF aims to promote academic freedom and diversity

By Brandon Wilborn--Ka Leo, 02/19/04

"You can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story," is the leading slogan for the academic freedom campaign championed by David Horowitz.

His nonprofit organization, Students for Academic Freedom, is leading the rally against the liberal bias they perceive on college campuses nationwide.

Their "Academic Bill of Rights" is under review by several state legislations in efforts to promote greater intellectual diversity on college campuses.

Though there is no SAF chapter at the University of Hawai'i, their proposal argues that all public universities should follow standards of academic freedom and diversity. SAF wants to prevent every university system from being oppressively one-sided or over weighted in any direction.

The bill, however, doesn't prevent educators or students from having political views and expressing them, but encourages discussion. Several forums on different forms of the bill have been held on campus in recent years.

Acquainted with the academic freedom movement since 1998, UH-Manoa's Political Science Professor Richard Chadwick has participated in those forums.

"Political affiliation per se is a civil right," he said. "But bringing that affiliation into the classroom can be simply a form of propaganda; it depends very much on the context."

Much like SAF, Chadwick encourages discussion: "There's nothing inherently wrong with letting students know where you stand on issues and why," he said, "but if that's done, it should be in an atmosphere of sharing for the purpose of critical thinking, not in an atmosphere of conformity or proselytizing."

Darin Payne, rhetorician and assistant professor at UHM, had similar thoughts.

"I think political affiliation is a good thing when it's open to challenge and revision," Payne said.

However, Payne didn't rule out the possibility of problems with political affiliations.

"Affiliation becomes a problem when it becomes dogmatic - when dialogue stops and monologue begins," Payne added.

"I am all for greater diversity of opinions on campus and U.S. institutions generally," said Sankaran Krishna, Chair of UHM's Political Science department, backing the Academic Bill of Rights.

The pervasive student fear that disagreeing with professors will destroy their grade is something all three of these professors work against, encouraging students to develop and voice their own opinions.

Still, some students feel that bringing politics into non-political classes is questionable.

Michelle, a history senior at UHM, who asked her last name be omitted from the story, feels "many professors are anti-American."

As a more mature student, Michelle felt confident in creating her own opinions, but, she admitted, "freshmen coming in can believe everything the teacher says."

She added that in general, UH is fairly diverse.

"I'd say it's (UH's political slant) is more to the left, but that's college education in general," said Charles Leaver, a senior in Information Computer Science at UHM. "There's some professors who push their opinion."

Leaver, who came from UCS, claims the atmosphere is much more conservative there.

"It crosses the line when somebody's brave enough to voice a different opinion and they get blasted," he said.

Leaver doesn't think it's completely the professors who contribute to the political atmosphere of a university.

"The student body has something to do with it," he said, adding that UH students seem more liberal than those from USC.

Liberal viewpoints are certainly visible across the UHM campus in countless graffiti proclamations of "No War," and in the fliers and postings from "Not in Our Name-Hawai'i," a UHM group opposing the war in Iraq and increased military presence in Hawai'i.

Few opposing viewpoints are widely seen on campus, the biggest in recent years being the controversial visit of Charlton Heston, then President of the National Rifle Association.

Because of the liberal bias SAF sees in most colleges, they believe that legislative action is the only recourse for students to gain the right to learn without indoctrination.

Horowitz sees the secrecy of college administrations as a feudal legacy in his essay, "Battle for Academic Freedom," found at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

Logically for him, "this (the invisible politics inherent in universities) makes the intervention of an overtly political institution like the legislature necessary if the interests of students, scholars who are not political, and the general public are to be served."

SAF's rough measure of bias is checking public records of voter registration with faculty listings. They admit that this does not define a problem, but only hints at one. Such analysis of UH has not been attempted.

__________________________________________________________________________

A recent survey of 150 departments and upper-level administrations at 32 elite colleges and universities, conducted by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, found the following:

Overall ratio of Democrats to Republicans at the 32 schools was more than 10 to 1 (1397 Democrats, 134 Republicans).

Although in the nation at large registered Democrats and Republicans are roughly equal in number, not a single department at a single one of the 32 schools managed to achieve a reasonable parity between the two.

At no less than four elite schools, we could not identify a single Republican on the faculty.

At schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell, we could not identify a single Republican administrator.

In the entire Ivy League, we identified only 3 Republican administrators.