Response: Ball State's Critics Ignore Facts, Policies · 03 January 2005

To the Editor:

I am the national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, the organization responsible for publicizing Ball State student Brett Mock's complaint of indoctrination and viewpoint discrimination in Professor George Wolfe's introductory peace studies class and for urging Ball State to undertake an investigation into the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Center to determine whether it is indoctrinating its students with an anti-military agenda.

I write to draw attention to the many mischaracterizations and omissions in the guest column written by Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora (Ball State's Critics Ignore Facts, Policies, 12/15) in which Gora claimed that the allegations made against Professor George Wolfe by Ball State student Brett Mock are "not supported by the facts."

As evidence for this claim, Gora presents three pieces of evidence. Firstly, that Wolfe gave Brett credit for attending an event featuring Vice President Dick Cheney; secondly, that the standard class evaluations of Professor Wolfe did not yield negative responses, nor did Brett ever file an official complaint with the university; and thirdly, that students were asked one question on a mid-term exam asking how Just War doctrine could be applied to both support and critique the war in Iraq.

Among the points that Gora does bring up, it is difficult to see how they prove her case that the course was open to all viewpoints.

Regarding Brett's trip to see Vice-President Cheney speak, he has already addressed this in our recent pamphlet noting that, "I did receive credit for this event. But the credit I received had nothing to do with peace or conflict studies….I did not receive any extra-credit for this event nor any university funding for my travel, as my colleagues did who went to Washington to lobby against the Iraq war."

Secondly, regarding the lack of an official complaint, Provost Pitts' letter to SAF asked that Brett submit this complaint as a grading issue (though he has stated repeatedly that he has no interest in contesting his grade), highlighting Ball State's lack of appropriate procedures for dealing with issues of classroom indoctrination. It is understandable that Brett waited until the conclusion of the course and until he had received his grade during the summer to contest Wolfe's conduct in the class.

As for why other students didn't submit negative evaluations of Wolfe, it is clear from an email exchange between Brett Mock and student newspaper columnist David Swindle that a politicized understanding of education is deeply entrenched at Ball State. In the exchange, Swindle says of Mock's enrolment in the Peace Studies Program: "In going into those kinds of courses wouldn't you expect the ideology to be somewhat leftist? Isn't that like a communist student taking a course in capitalism? Of course capitalism is going to be promoted as the only option. The course wouldn't be about other economic systems." Swindle goes on to ask: "Isn't all education indoctrination?"

Gora's last point is that Wolfe's midterm exam contained a question asking students to write about how Just War doctrine could be used both to support and critique War in Iraq. I concede that this is a good exam question and that it encourages critical thinking. Yet this one question cannot outweigh the multitude of evidence accumulated against Wolfe which shows he used his class chiefly to indoctrinate students in his own radical, pacifist ideology.

Gora omits any response to the body of evidence amassed against Professor Wolfe, which was recently published by SAF as a booklet entitled, Indoctrination or Education: The "Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution" Program at Ball State University, and is available on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

Among the points addressed in the booklet which Gora fails to mention or justify:

-The authors of the textbook used in Wolfe's class (Barash and Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies) openly state in their preface that, "The field [of Peace Studies] differs from most other human sciences in that it is value-oriented, and unabashedly so. Accordingly we wish to be up front about our own values, which are frankly anti-war, anti-violence, anti-nuclear, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, pro-environment, pro-human rights, pro-social justice, pro-peace and politically progressive." (p. x) This preface alone should serve to illustrate the one-sided subtext of the course.

- Why Professor Wolfe, a member of the music department and professor of the saxophone, is considered academically qualified to teach on the social, political and economic causes of war despite possessing no relevant academic credentials in the subject.

-The fact that Professor Wolfe refused a student request to review a book that presented a theory of war which Wolfe disagreed with.

-How the university can claim to have fully investigated Brett Mock's complaint against Professor Wolfe without ever attempting to speak with him.

-Why Professor Wolfe required students to attend a showing of the video "Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the War in Iraq," which portrayed the Bush administration as lying about their reasons for the war and their response to 9/11, yet never attempted to introduce a positive perspective on the war.

-Why Professor Wolfe used his class to recruit students to the radical Peace Workers student organization and offered extra credit to students who attended a university-sponsored trip to Washington, DC to instruct students how to lobby against the war in Iraq.

Gora also neglects to mention that while BSU Provost Beverley Pitts did respond promptly to my first letter, I still have not received any answer to my second letter dated October 5 asking the university to clarify how it was possible to conduct a full investigation into Brett's complaint without ever attempting to speak with him directly.

The fact is, that despite Gora's claims that Ball State is "committed to maintaining an academic environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas," the Ball State administration has displayed a glaring lack of concern with regard to Brett Mock and his allegations against Professor Wolfe. Even the Muncie Star Press has taken note of the university's dismissive attitude stating in an editorial that "Ball State's reaction amounts to bureaucratic exclusion and indicates, to those interested only in learning the truth, that the university's mind is made up." The public should have higher expectations for its publicly funded educational institutions and we hope that Ball State will rise to the challenge.