Bowling Green Barbarians · 03 April 2005

Filed under: Ohio, Press Coverage

By David

On March 30, I spoke at Bowling Green State University, a state school in a blue-collar area about thirty miles outside Toledo, whose 20,000 students each pay $15,000-a-year tuition to attend. On election eve 2004, the university through its official activities program put on a showing of Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's hate film against George Bush and the American liberation of Iraq. This was a fairly typical violation of federal codes by universities like Bowling Green, which, as state institutions, are barred from using their funds and facilities for partisan political activities. But as is generally the case with regard to universities these days, there seem to be no adults around to mind the playground.

The most depressing aspect of my campus visits, however, has been less observing how politically partisan these institutions have become, than glimpsing the individual abusive activities of faculty bullies who betray their professional responsibilities as teacher and use their enormous power over students to ridicule and abuse those whose conservative views they despise. The same professors regularly convert their classroom lecterns into political soapboxes thereby depriving liberal as well as conservative students of a decent education.

These days, the principal theme of my visits to university campuses is to explain to the audiences who come to hear me the difference between education and indoctrination, a distinction that seems to have been lost on the current academic generation. The abuses I have encountered are not even subtle, though no resident official or faculty committee seems to concern itself with the problem. At Columbia University, a civil engineering professor showed Fahrenheit 9/11 to his class in the midst of the presidential campaign. In taking an entire class to show this propaganda film, the professor was obviously not teaching his students civil engineering, or imparting any knowledge he was credentialed to share with them. He was simply inflicting his ignorance and prejudices on an audience that was unable to escape. There is something pathetic in adults who cannot restrain the urge to vent their political frustrations on a captive audience put at their disposal and take advantage of the vulnerability of audiences who in objecting risk ridicule (more frequently inflicted than you would imagine) or - worse - punitive grades that can negatively affect their careers (also more frequent than you would imagine).

At Bowling Green University, a Spanish language professor (whose name I will withhold for the purposes of this piece) reserves a ritual ten minutes or 20 percent of his class time in every class. This time is devoted to what he calls a "political parenthesis," by which he means a class segment in which he allows himself to indulge in tirades against Republicans, George Bush, the war in Iraq, and conservatives generally. In fact, this practice is forbidden by the Faculty Handbook under the section describing "Ethical Responsibilities" of professors. Among these is:

3) The responsibility to state clearly the objectives of the courses taught, to direct the instruction toward the fulfillment of these objectives, and to avoid the persistent intrusion of material irrelevant to the established course definition or apart from the faculty member's area of scholarly competence. (Emphasis added.)

George Bush's policies and the war in Iraq are obviously not part of a Spanish language professor's "area of scholarly competence." A similar injunction using virtually identical language would bar the showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 in a civil engineering class at Columbia. Both ethical principles that would restrict professorial classroom discourse to the area of scholarly competence are completely ignored in universities like Bowling Green and Columbia. This is why I have launched a campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights, which includes an appeal to legislatures to remind universities of their responsibility to implement their own established professional codes of conduct.

As indefensible and offensive as the professor's "political parenthesis" may be, it is only the tip of the iceberg of the general debasement of the academic enterprise by radical faculty on campuses like Bowling Green's. At every school I have visited over the last 15 years - more than 300 in all - there are entire departments in the Liberal Arts divisions of these colleges exclusively devoted to non-academic activities and dedicated in particular to indoctrinating students in the ideologies of tenured radicals.

These courses are generally interdisciplinary and are ideological in their very conception (and often in their self-description), bearing little relation to the other parts of the same university - the hard sciences and professional schools - on which the school's prestige is almost entirely based. There is nothing academic about curricula that insist on one ideological perspective and regard their mission as one of training and indoctrinating students in that politically correct view.

Among the departments which adhere to this institutional model are Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Peace Studies, and other easily identified disciplines. The text for a basic Ethnic Studies course at Bowling Green, for example, is Howard Zinn's communist cartoon, A People's History of the United States. Students are instructed that American history reflects a racist, sexist, capitalist and imperialist society governed by a corporate ruling class. An American Studies course uses different left-wing texts but follows the same pattern of presenting American history as the history of racism and oppression with no attempt made to consider alternate viewpoints or to examine the issues of American history from perspectives that would challenge this Marxist caricature, an exercise that would be a standard component of an education in generations past. As at other schools, undergraduates at Bowling Green cannot avoid these indoctrination courses, because students are compelled to take a sampling of them (at least four on the Bowling Green campus) in order to fulfill their "multicultural" requirement.

When I arrived on the Bowling Green campus, I was forewarned that the atmosphere was not going to be hospitable by the school paper, which had run an editorial about my speech that evening. Introducing me as a former leftist whose views are now "staunchly right wing," the editorial continued:

Despite objections to Horowitz and his ideologies, the BG News feels it to be important to hear this man speak. Noam Chomsky once said of a pro-Nazi professor, "I don't support the things he says, but I support his right to say them." It is with this attitude that we encourage students to attend Horowitz's lecture.

In other words, if an authority whom we respect like Noam Chomsky (a writer who regularly compares the United States to Hitler's Germany) thinks it is all right to allow a pro-Nazi professor speak, then the Bowling Green community should allow conservative students (who resemble Nazis) to invite Horowitz. The previous night I had spoken at Skidmore College, where a Professor of Psychology had publicly referred to the College Republicans as "America's future fascists." Conservative students at universities generally are treated as second-class citizens, a situation which my Academic Bill of Rights is designed to correct.

The Republican students at Bowling Green had scheduled my speech as part of "Republican Week," just as the Skidmore students had arranged my appearance as a feature of their "Conservative Challenge Week," an attempt to break out of their marginalized situation and confront the stigma that had been placed on them as conservatives. This stigma is enforced by the general atmosphere of intolerance towards conservatives that prevails on these campuses and that is encouraged by faculty radicals and tolerated by administrations too intimidated by the same faculties to observe the common decencies they have otherwise made into a collegiate religion under the banners of diversity and "respect for difference."

I had already been told by my conservative student hosts that there was a demonstration planned for my arrival. At the entrance to Olscamp Hall, where the event was scheduled to take place, I saw a crowd of about twenty members of the Revolutionary Communist Party chanting, "George Bush and David Horowitz Get Out of the Way, Christian, Fascist, USA." Nonetheless, the hall filled up with more than 200 people among whom I would guess 50 - including half a dozen Bowling Green professors -- shared the enthusiasms of the Revolutionary Communists, cheering the name "Ward Churchill" when it came up, and signaling in other ways that they were there to protest rather than to listen to my speech.

I opened by observing that I hoped they enjoyed the chanting, and that I regarded it as one of the basic principles of Academic Freedom that individuals should have the right to embarrass themselves in public. I was not about to play passive victim and probably contributed in my unwillingness to do so to the fireworks that erupted periodically during the evening. The Spanish language professor with the "political parentheses" was there and flinched when I mentioned his ritual, but said nothing. The American Studies professor was also there and shouted out from the audience something to the effect that I made too much money. "If you had my talents, maybe you might earn as much," I retorted to the obvious pleasure of the students who had invited me and who were the real targets of the attacks on my presence.

It was the writer D.H. Lawrence who remarked that the intellectual life was "rooted in envy, envy and spite," and I had given the professors present cause to be upset. Once the interruptions began, causing me to lose my train of thought as I responded, I realized that reflective intellectual discourse was going to be impossible and turned to polemic. Addressing the tenured radicals in the audience, I reminded them that schools had once been the ladders of opportunity for the poor. My own grandfather had come to this country with nothing, and earned $3 a week as a tailor, remaining poor his entire life. But the family had sent my father to public school and on to City College, a free school as well, and he had become a teacher enabling our family to enter the middle class.

But all that had changed. The tuition at Bowling Green -- $15,000 a year -denied working class youngsters in the Toledo area the opportunity to get a shot at the American dream. "Eighty percent of the school budget is salaries," I said. "You make between $60,000 and $100,000 a year. You teach on average two courses and spend six hours a week in class. You work eight months out of the year and have four months paid vacation. And every seven years you get ten months paid vacation. If you are really as concerned about the working class as you pretend, why don't you volunteer to teach four courses and twelve hours a week and lower the tuition costs for these kids?"

When my talk was over I took questions and rants for about an hour. Many of the Revolutionary Communists came to the microphone to amuse those present whose sanity was still intact. A man claiming to be a documentary filmmaker and Howard Zinn's hagiographer came up to defend Zinn's reputation against my charge that he was a "Stalinist." According to this man, Zinn had written articles critical of Stalin. Well, yes, now that Stalin's dead. Actually Zinn's preposterous "history" book - required reading at Bowling Green - still maintains that Stalin's well-documented aggression in Korea was actually an American aggression, just as the Communists had maintained fifty years ago. At one point the Zinn fan claimed that the United States was 41st in the world in infant mortality rates. "Should we be happy about that?" he declaimed to the Communists in the audience. Then he began chanting "We're 41! We're 41!"

The lunacies continued into the book signing and one on one encounters afterwards, as the larger crowd began filing out. A distraught woman who said she was a bio-ethics professor got in my face as I was making my way to the door, claiming I was maligning her and her professor husband by saying that they only worked eight months out of the year and had a four month paid vacation at her students' expense. "Well," I replied, what do you do between the middle of May when finals are over and the end of September when school re-opens?" "I write my research papers," she said in a tone so belligerent and richly indignant that I realized the conversation was hopeless. I would never break through that thick skin of "progressive" self-righteousness. "Oh," I said, "in other words you use the time to work for yourself, at the students' expense." "This is a research university!" she practically cried, while we headed for the exits, leaving me to wonder what she did with the time she had free seven hours of every working day, and eight hours of the two days she wasn't even in class during every week of the school year.

Editorial Note: It appears students at Bowling Green were likewise embarrassed by the antics of the Revolutionary Communist Party...and the professoriate. See the article "Response to Speaker was Rude, Immature" in The BG News. -- The Editors.