Colorado Reps Hear of Biases · 18 December 2003

Filed under: Press Coverage

By Adam Ewing--Colorado Daily, 12/19/03

As students across the state end a politically charged semester marked with controversy over academic freedom, several students from Colorado colleges and universities met at the State Capitol Thursday to tell an ad hoc legislative committee just how biased Colorado campuses are.

One self-proclaimed conservative student after another spoke to the bipartisan Senate committee telling Senate President John Andrews, a Centennial Republican, and other members about their problems at what they consider to be Colorado's liberal college campuses.

CU-Boulder political science major Nate Strauch said a past economics professor used his teaching position as a "soapbox."

"Unfortunately, this professor used his course not as a learning experience, but rather as a soapbox for liberal indoctrination," he said to legislators that included Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder; Sen. Terry Phillips, D- Boulder County, Sen. Ken Arnold R-Broomfield and several other lawmakers.

Other students took their turns, explaining how they thought they had been discriminated against.

Mark Daley, a political science doctoral student at Colorado State University, said his hardships at CSU have delayed the completion of his career goals.

"In spite of degrees in political science and environmental science, I was required to take two additional semesters of courses before I would be considered for admittance (into the doctoral program)," Daley said.

Brian Glotzbach, a Metro student, said he has seen the required books other students buy for classes. He said most of the books are by liberal authors.

"What Michael Moore has to do with an American history class is anyone's guess," he said. "My question is, where are the books by Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly?"

The evidence the students offered was anecdotal - with many admitting they had not taken their grievances up with their respective institutions.

Some in the crowd wondered why Andrews was pursuing such a topic a day after presidents from Colorado's state colleges and universities held a press conference to explain the state's dire funding picture for higher education.

The executives said the state's general fund support for higher education could be gone by 2010, a fact supported by CU's Office of Budget and Finance.

Madden said typical legislative ad hoc meetings provide a neutral presentation of basic facts. She said she is concerned about the "questionable premise upon which this event is structured," adding "By mimicking the structure of a Legislative committee" participants and the public are being done "a disservice."

Sen. Bob Hagedorn (D-Arapahoe), who has taught political science at Denver's Metropolitan State College for 18 years, said Thursday's meeting was not a "witch hunt" like U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy's during the 1950s, which sought out possible communists in government.

Hagedorn said there are many different potential reasons for faculty to be perceived as biased.

"What's on the surface can be more deceptive than what the truth is," he added. "One of the things I worry about is this evolving into a witch hunt where a faculty member would be harassed into leaving," Hagedorn said.

He said he doesn't think bias is a problem now, but that hearings might be a good way to know if such a problem exists one way or the other.

"I don't feel like my time was wasted and I am more sensitive to things I might say in class," Hagedorn told the Colorado Daily.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Golden), who was not a participant on the committee, called Andrews' ad hoc meeting a "kangaroo committee" and said Andrews' concerns were focused on lesser issues.

"By raising this issue, Sen. Andrews is trying to distract from the real problems in higher education, which are affordability and accessibility," Fitz-Gerald said. " These proceedings do a disservice to the legislature by fostering a witch hunt of faculty who have no opportunity to defend themselves."

Metro student Joel Tagert had a brief moment to address the lawmakers.

He said information about Thursday's meeting was not publicized to all students and amounted to an "ideological crusade," taking away from the more important topic of the higher education budget shortfall.

The subject of academic freedom and liberal bias on campus heated up this summer when David Horowitz, a conservative author and critic from California, came to Colorado and met with Andrews and Gov. Bill Owens to discuss the notion of his Academic Bill of Rights - a measure he claimed would address the liberal bias on Colorado campuses and other campuses around the nation.

Madden said she would like to have a committee to address some of the problems that she considers to be important. Being in the minority (as a Democrat in the Republican Legislature), Madden said she has been cut off when the majority didn't like what she was saying.

"So I congratulate President Andrews, sincerely, for his efforts and his organization (of the hearings) that got exposure for this issue," Madden said. "I just wish we could give much attention to the many other people who could use our help."