California's Betrayal of Academic Freedom · 13 September 2004

By David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 14, 2004

A study conducted in 2002 by the American Enterprise Magazine at the request of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture showed that of 394 faculty members whose party registrations could be identified at four University of California campuses (Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego and Santa Barbara), 371 were registered Democrats or Greens, as compared to only 23 Republicans or Libertarians. This was true not only for sociology, a traditionally leftwing field, but political science where 94% of party registrations were also on the left.

Such extreme lack of intellectual diversity suggests a problem in the hiring process throughout the U.C. system. There is no possibility that in a nation as evenly divided between liberals and conservatives such a distribution would be statistically possible if there were no bias in the hiring process itself.

Do instructors use the classroom for political indoctrination? There is ample testimony that they do, including a recent book by a recent UCLA graduate (Ben Shapiro, Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, WND 2004). The evidence is available to anyone who takes time to look, from UC's own websites. Here is a course description that appeared in this year's UCLA online catalogue. The course in question is the "Fiat Lux Seminar: Honors Collegium 98." The seminar incorporates "History 19," and "Public Policy 1284."

The Fiat Lux Seminar is subtitled "Re-Reading Democracy in America: Politics Before and After 9/11." It is taught by Professor Vinay Lal, a member of the UCLA History Department. According to the catalogue, there are "two requirements" for students to complete the course -- a paper on one of the two class texts and an in-class presentation. Here is how the presentation is described in the UCLA catalogue:

"Requirements: … Each student will also do a succinct class presentation of no more than ten minutes accompanied by a handout (1 pg.). In this presentation, the student will draw upon some aspect of American political, cultural, or social life which has a bearing on the subject matter of the course. For example, a presentation might focus on what the election to California's governorship of a movie star who has been charged by a dozen women with sexual molestation, drives perhaps the most environmentally unfriendly vehicle in the world, and appeared not to have a single idea about governance says about American "democracy." Other presentations can focus on corporate ownership of the media, the rise of Fox News, the MTA and grocery chain strikes in Los Angeles, the trade union movements, the presence of African-Americans and Latinos in the US army, the film "Bowling in (sic) Columbine", the assault on civil liberties, the indefinite detention of hundreds of Muslims without any accountability to notions of justice, or thousands of such phenomena."

The mere fact that a description like this could appear in a college catalogue - let alone the catalogue of one of America's premier universities - is evidence of the extensive corruption of the university curriculum by radical ideologues who have debased the academic classroom and turned it into a platform for political agendas. In passing it should be noted that, as governor, Schwarzenegger has the highest approval ratings of any governor in the history of the state. This course description is political argument, which could not be more remote from any pedagogical enterprise or scholarly inquiry. It will not surprise anyone that the text assigned for the Fiat Lux Seminar is Vietnam and Other American Fantasies by H. Bruce Franklin, a notorious radical who in the past has edited (and provided a favorable introduction for) a collection of writings by Joseph Stalin. In the Seventies, Franklin was head of a violent radical group called "Veneremos," whose activities led to his being fired by Stanford University, an act of academic wisdom, which could not be repeated today.

Professor Lal explains the importance of Franklin's text in this way: "Though many commentators have unthinkingly rehearsed the cliche that after 9/11 all is changed, our other principal text comes from one of the most respected scholars of American history [Franklin is in fact a Professor of English Literature}, whose relatively recent inquiry into the meaning of the Vietnam war in American life suggests that nothing has changed, insofar as the US remains on course in exercising its ruthless dominance over the rest of the world." [Emphasis added.]

There is not the slightest indication that this course will present students with alternative viewpoints to this jihadist perspective, or that it will open minds to the complex realities of American democracy. This is a course designed to draw one ideological conclusion, and to indoctrinate students in an extreme leftwing point of view.

Given the pervasive leftwing bias in UC's academic hiring process, which has gone on for more than thirty years, this travesty of an academic seminar is neither surprising nor unique. The present UC administration is not only willing to tolerate such abuses, it has recently capitulated to the faculty ideologues and eliminated the remaining safeguards of academic integrity from its policy guidelines, and formally accepted the politicization of its teaching programs.

Until this moment, political indoctrination by faculty has been traditionally (and formally) regarded by the American Association of University Professors and all academic administrations as a violation of the educational mission of the university. Until this year, in fact, indoctrination was explicitly recognized by the UC administration as academically unacceptable. Thus rule APM 0-10 of UC Berkeley's Academic Personnel Manual, written by UC President Robert Gordon Sproul in 1934 stated quite clearly:

"The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts….Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumed the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda."

Unfortunately, these noble words have been honored more in the breach than in the observance for a long time in the UC system. But the mere fact of their existence was annoying to faculty ideologues at Berkeley. Consequently, at the behest of former UC president Richard Atkinson, they were summarily removed this year by a tiny minority of the UC community in a 43-3 vote of the faculty Senate, which took place on July 30. 2003. The academic freedom clause was replaced by another, which essentially said that professors can teach anything they want in the classroom. This is a momentous and ominous event in the life of American universities, and therefore the academic context in which it occurred needs to be understood.

Two incidents precipitated the change in UC policy on academic freedom. The first was the complaint of a student at UC Berkeley that her Middle Eastern studies lecturer had told students that the notorious Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was true. The Protocols describes a Jewish plot to control the world and was a document used by the Nazis to justify the extermination of Jews. The student's complaint was dismissed by university authorities. An official of the UC Academic Senate defended the professor's preposterous and bigoted statement as coming under the protection of "academic freedom," and explained the view that was eventually codified in the Academic Personnel Manual as APM 0-15:

"I too had assumed these "Protocols" are a fraud but I am hardly an expert on the subject. [B]ut quite frankly there are many theories in social science I think are pure nonsense that have currency; I guess that is part of the messiness of academic freedom…and we each have our favorite 'excesses.'" (emphasis added)

It hardly needs to be emphasized that traditionally academic freedom had nothing to do with the propagation of proven forgeries like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as though they were true.

The second incident involved a required freshman English writing class conducted by instructor Snehal Shingavi. Shingavi is the head of the International Socialist Organization, a group that describes itself as "Leninist" and calls for violent revolution. He is also head of Students for Justice in Palestine. Shingavi organized an anti-American demonstration on September 11, 2001 after the World Trade Center attacks and has been arrested for leading illegal and violent demonstrations on campus. Shingavi's course was called "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance," and was listed in the catalogue along with the warning "Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." This sentence led to public ridicule and outrage. It was removed from the catalogue by university officials, but the course itself was allowed to continue.

When UC President Atkinson introduced the idea of altering the existing academic freedom code he specially mentioned the Shingavi course as an instance of why the existing code (which explicitly disapproved of such courses) was no longer useful in addressing contemporary questions. It was "outdated." Atkinson's statement was the university's formal capitulation to the political forces that have taken over the university. The new guidelines leave the university's standards in this matter to the Academic Senate, and limit the criterion for what is acceptable in the classroom to academic "competence." This competence, however, is certified by the credentialing system before the professor enters a classroom. In other words the revision of the guidelines for academic freedom in the UC system is a direct and explicit surrender of the academic curriculum to the political ideologues on the UC faculties. It is an announcement that UC administrators now sanction the political abuse of California's system of higher education by radical activists who have seized its faculties and who are bent on its exploiting its curriculum for the most extreme agendas of the radical left.
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David Horowitz is the author of numerous books including an autobiography, Radical Son, which has been described as "the first great autobiography of his generation," and which chronicles his odyssey from radical activism to the current positions he holds. Among his other books are The Politics of Bad Faith and The Art of Political War. The Art of Political War was described by White House political strategist Karl Rove as "the perfect guide to winning on the political battlefield." Horowitz's latest book, Uncivil Wars, was published in January this year, and chronicles his crusade against intolerance and racial McCarthyism on college campuses last spring. Click here to read more about David