President Bush could become road kill according to the statements of a professor at a small, private Michigan college.
The Network of College Conservatives (N.C.C.) received a complaint from an Aquinas College student claiming the most liberal course offered this semester was an economics class titled "Capitalism & Socialism." The class — an elective — is taught by Professor Gary Robertson, and the school’s course catalog says the class "Introduces the various economic systems in our world…."
The following is a portion of the student’s original report to the N.C.C.:
My professor is making us read David Brock’s nutcase book "Blinded by the Right" which not only has nothing to do with economics but is also nonsense propaganda. On the second day of class my professor also informed us that he would spit in the President’s face if he saw him, and that if the President walked out in front of his truck he would gladly run him over, reverse, and run him over again.
The N.C.C. attempted to contact Prof. Robertson directly to verify the claims. We did hear back from the professor, but it was in the form of an unsettling e-mail:
"Dear Fascist, Who are you, part of the thought police? If you would like to debate ideas, attend my class. Otherwise, read the US constitution, the first amendment in particular; & then take a flying leap."
After reading Prof. Robertson’s inspiring e-mail, the N.C.C. contacted Marty Fahey, Director of College Relations at Aquinas.
Fahey confirms David Brock’s Blinded by the Right is "one of several books" used in the course and that Kevin Phillips’s Wealth in Democracy, "a more conservative perspective," is also read. As to the remarks attributed to Prof. Robertson, Fahey says he spoke with Robertson and that the professor says the quote, "was misstated/misquoted and that it was taken out of context."
But, the student who contacted the N.C.C. doesn’t agree. "No I don’t believe I took Prof. Robertson’s quote out of context, nor did I misquote him, that was simply what he said in a ‘joking’ voice, it would be fair to say."
And, as for the textbook Wealth in Democracy, the student says it is used in the class, "which makes sense as it pertains to economics; the only other book used is David Brock’s book, which in no way, shape or form amounts to anything relating to economics."
The N.C.C. contacted Fahey again to further investigate the comments reportedly made against President Bush by Prof. Robertson. We asked, "…what then did he [Prof. Robertson] say and how did the student misstate/misquote him and/or take it out of context." We added that we were, "skeptical as to how a quote like "…spit in the President’s face if you [Prof. Robertson] saw him, and that if the President walked out in front of your [Prof. Robertson’s] truck you [Prof. Robertson] would gladly run him over, reverse, and run him over again," can be taken out of context.
Fahey asked Prof. Robertson to provide the comments he made in class. Fahey responded with the following:
The first comment was made in the context of a discussion about policies (Pres. Bush’s administration had pursued with which he (Prof. Robertson) disagreed, he stated:
"If Bush were to walk in front of my pickup truck, I’d be faced with a moral dilemma, and I might not be able to distinguish between the brake & the gas pedal."
The other statement went like this….
"I have urged past students to spit on LBJ’s grave (because of the unjustified war in Vietnam), I think the same thing is appropriate for ‘W’ since he lied to us & caused an unjustified war."
Fahey noted that Prof. Robertson’s personal opinions "…are not necessarily representative of the thoughts and opinions of the rest of the faculty, staff and students."
The student who complained to the N.C.C. thought Prof. Robertson’s recollection was exaggerated.
"My quote may not have been exact…. Evidently Prof. Robertson does not remember his exact wording either, because he sure tried to make himself sound a lot nicer than I remember. …I’m pretty sure that if he expressed his opinion in a way that was respectable I would not have had boiling blood."
Whether the actual quote made in the classroom was as the student says or as Prof. Robertson claims, the N.C.C. cannot know for sure. But, the bottom line is Prof. Robertson admits to saying, "If Bush were to walk in front of my pickup truck, I’d be faced with a moral dilemma, and I might not be able to distinguish between the brake & the gas pedal."
This type of comment is inappropriate. Yes, a professor has the constitutional right to say what he/she likes and a right to academic freedom; however, this is not a case of free speech as much as it is about inappropriate speech. Why are Prof. Robertson’s "moral dilemmas," which are obviously politically charged, being discussed in an economics class?
The student has not filed a formal complaint against Prof. Robertson with the school because he/she says, "I am concerned about my grades, and for two I have a great doubt of it doing any good." The student’s parents have been made aware of the professor’s remarks, and according to our contact, they wonder why they are paying a tremendous amount of money to send their child to Aquinas.
"I don’t want to completely discredit Prof. Robertson as a teacher. I have learned things from him, and he is good at taking economic principles and making them understandable," the student says. "What is hardest for me about the class is that with just about everything he says, I feel like I have to take it with (more than just a little) grain of salt."
The student says he/she will defend his/her views, but, "it gets much harder to defend them against a Prof…in front of a class who mostly laughs at his off-the-wall comments. Unfortunately lately I typically find myself biting my tongue and just trying to make it through class."
What a shame! Intimidation is not supposed to be a part of a college education!
At one point in our correspondence with Fahey, he asked, "What are you — a self-appointed conservative watchdog group for the nation’s colleges?"
Quite frankly — yes!
The Network of College Conservatives will continue this effort of exposing liberal bias on our nation’s college campuses in pursuit of intellectual integrity and academic excellence.