By Joseph Peter Calandra, Jr. and Joseph A. D’Agostino
As members of the House of Representatives return to their home districts during summer recess, Congressmen Walter Jones (R.-N.C.) and Jack Kingston (R.-Ga.) are praying for the success of HConRes 318. Kingston, Jones, and 38 other members of the House co-sponsored this resolution in 2003 based on the Academic Bill of Rights from David Horowitz and his group, Students for Academic Freedom. HConRes 318 is designed to “secure the intellectual independence of faculty members and students and to protect the principle of intellectual diversity” in America’s higher education system, according to the language of the bill. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) said that he is going to sponsor a Senate version in September.
“We’ve gotten a lot of progress with the Academic Bill of Rights,” said Horowitz, who is independently pushing colleges to adopt it. “It’s hard for people to oppose. We’ve even got people committed to pursuing intellectual diversity on campus, hiring more conservatives. But professors once they’re hired have had a lot of protections for their freedom for a long time. Students don’t have that protection.”
“The resolution is designed to bring a problem before Congress,” said Jones. “I think what Mr. Kingston, myself and the other 38 House members that signed on want to see is a fair hearing on academic freedom. Let’s bring up panels pro and con. I want the Congress to hear from students and faculty to determine if there is a problem at our colleges, and I think there is.”
The resolution only urges both public and private institutions of higher learning to adopt voluntarily the Academic Bill of Rights (for complete text, go to www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org). If the congressional hearings reveal a major problem on America’s campuses, Jones and his allies plan to introduce a bill that would take further steps against colleges that receive federal funds.
The problem Jones refers to is the liberal bias that dominates most institutions of higher learning in the country and the resulting suppression of dissent. The resolution states that faculty must be hired or fired based on “their competence and appropriate knowledge in their field of expertise.” It also states that students “will be graded solely on the basis of. . .appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their political, ideological or religious beliefs.”
This resolution has met stiff opposition from the left. Donald Lazere, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, blasted the bill in a Chronicle piece from July 2, 2004. He referred to “cultural conservatism” and the attempt to pass the resolution as “an assault on American colleges.” He called conservative principles and Bush Administration policies “childishly simplistic platitudes. . .propagat[ed] to gain mass compliance,” instead of admitting that legitimate points of view exist outside those espoused by the left.
Jones told HUMAN EVENTS: “This is typical of the left in this country. Those who do abuse their power and indoctrinate their views on the students know what they are doing in the classrooms of America. You can get away with anything, until someone says, No, stop, this is wrong, and challenges you. They do not want to admit that opposing views are rational and legitimate. When you are in a position of power, as professors are, and where you think you are right and you can dominate, why move? That’s why I think this bill is justified and worthy. The problem is that liberal universities are not open and honest about being liberal. This bill asks them to be honest, and be accountable, that’s all we want.”
Dr. Mike Adams, author of The Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative Professor, has taught criminology at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington for 11 years. His columns on www.dradams.org detail the stories of liberal transgressions at his school. In his March 29 editorial he discusses how he was banned from talking about “gay rights, feminism, religion, Darwinism, or affirmative action” on campus because his delivery made his co-workers feel “uncomfortable.” He told HUMAN EVENTS: “We need this bill to pass because I can’t see how anyone could oppose it. The promise of fair and equal treatment for everyone, including conservatives, in the marketplace of ideas is essential to the growth of our nation. There are some things on which decent people cannot disagree. This bill happens to be one of those things.”
Dr. Adams said that he recalls the campus paying for speakers whose agenda was the defeat of President Bush with public funds. “UNCW hosted the Guerrilla Girls last Women’s History Month, which used to be called ‘March’,” he said. “They were paid $6,000 of student activities money to stand on the stage, dressed up like apes, throw bananas at the audience and campaign against W. in a speech that was called ‘How President Bush’s attack on the international family hurts us all.'”
Citing the willingness of universities to spend countless dollars on liberal speakers but shy away from spending money on conservative ones, the director of campus programs for Young America’s Foundation, Patrick Coyle, talked to HUMAN EVENTS about how to end the double standard for lectures on America’s campuses.
“I love bringing conservative speakers to college campuses because it gives students a chance to hear conservative ideas from a conservative, and not through a left-wing filter such as a professor who typically distorts conservative ideas,” he said. Coyle brought up the point that once liberal students actually hear the message of conservatives from actual conservatives, they start to think that those speakers just might be right. He pointed to a specific incident at George Washington University where a liberal student heard Lt. Col. Ollie North (USMC, Ret.) give a lecture on the conservative interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and responded during the question and answer session by saying: “I came here expecting to hate what you had to say, but now I actually agree with a lot of your points.”
Dr. Adams, who was formerly a pro-choice atheist, added, “In my 11 years professing, I gradually saw the light because the university has helped me to see the truth via its juxtaposition with falsity. . . . I served on several hiring committees in my time at UNCW. I saw an applicant’s file denied because his writing a piece for a conservative publication made him ‘too conservative.’ In 1996 the label of ‘too much of a family man’ was put on an applicant who was married with several kids before he was 30. In 2001, an applicant was asked whom he voted for in 2000. These sorts of things must stop, sooner than later. That’s why we need this bill to pass.”
Congressman Jones pointed to the February “Tim case” at U.N.C. Chapel Hill where a Christian student was denied his free speech rights in academia. “‘Why do heterosexual men feel threatened by homosexuals,’ that was the topic of discussion in his sophomore English class,” said Jones. A student named Tim (last name withheld) defended himself in class, saying that he is a heterosexual man not threatened by gays, is a Christian, and stated: “Being a Christian, I would feel uncomfortable having to explain to my son at a baseball game why two homosexual men are kissing; and I don’t want to have to explain to him why that is wrong.”
Tim went on to say, “Nowhere did I ever say that I hate homosexuals or that I wish to harm them. The classroom should be a chance for people of all diverse backgrounds to speak out and not be blasted.” Tim was, however, blasted by his professor, Dr. Elyse Crystall. On Feb. 6, 2004 she sent out a mass e-mail calling Tim’s remarks “hate speech that created a hostile environment in class.” She continued by calling him “an example of privilege; a white, heterosexual, Christian male who feels entitled to make violent, heterosexist comments and not feel marked or threatened or vulnerable.”
Rep. Jones’ office told HUMAN EVENTS that following a lack of administrative action against Dr. Crystall, Tim contacted his office asking for assistance. Rep. Jones sent a letter February 19 to Dr. James Moeser, Chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, stating that he was displeased. The letter went on to note how unconstitutional it is to tell “students [that] expressing their deepest personal beliefs will not be tolerated if they are contrary to hers.” The congressman was further dismayed that “she did all this at taxpayer expense.”
That same letter expressed Jones’ outrage, saying: “Taken together, Ms. Crystall’s actions are absolutely unacceptable and necessitate severe action. Unfortunately, this particular incident appears to be part of a larger pattern of harassment of students who do not share the ideological bent of academics of the political and social left.”
Jones defended Tim further by saying; “I also intend to refer the matter to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a federal investigation to determine whether a civil rights violation has occurred.” The Education Department is expected to release the results of its investigation at the end of August.
In April, the Raleigh News and Observer reported, “She eventually apologized for the message, but she said she did so under pressure from the English Department after her message had been widely circulated. She said the apology was written by a public relations official and she signed it, even though she didn’t agree with it.” Crystall’s only public remark on the Tim case was directed at the media claiming, “Take note: This not about free speech. This has been a well-funded, well-organized attack from the radical right, emboldened by the conservative climate in which we find ourselves.”
David French, National President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told HUMAN EVENTS the battle for academic freedom will be most likely won through the courts and the media. “The best medicine for overwhelming ideological uniformity at American universities is exposing that uniformity in the media and in the courts. This uniformity leads to a level of indoctrination that is antithetical to the true ideals of a liberal arts education. Public exposure can generate a great deal of change. Universities find that they cannot put a pleasant public face on oppressive private actions,” he said.
Mr. Calandra is a senior at Virginia Wesleyan College and a reporter for the student paper, The Marlin Chronicle. He is interning with HUMAN EVENTS through the National Journalism Center. Mr. D’Agostino is Associate Editor of HUMAN EVENTS.