By Sara Dogan–SAF–04/13/06
George Soros’ organization, the Center for Campus Progress, has posted a series of reports entitled “Undercover at the ‘Academic Freedom Conference'” which serve only to discredit the organization.
For starters, the title of this series is a deceptive misnomer. No one was required to “go undercover” to attend our conference. We encouraged the attendance and participation of members of the teachers unions and those who oppose our academic freedom campaign, offering free registration to members of Mr. Soros’ organization as we did to all others who work for non-profit organizations and the teacher unions.
We also took pains to include their viewpoints in the conference itself. A panel on the topic “Is Legislation Necessary or Advisable?” included William Scheuerman of the United University Professors and Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, both of whom have opposed legislative efforts inspired by the Academic Bill of Rights, and was moderated by Scott Jaschik of InsideHigherEd.com who has written many critical articles about our efforts.
Once one gets past the invective and personal attacks contained in these reports, only a few salient points remain in their critiques.
One such questions is: “Why, if this is a non-partisan issue as Horowitz claims, all of the kids on an earlier panel about abuses on campus were self-proclaimed conservative activists.”
The answer is simple. As numerous national studies have shown, the vast majority of professors on college campuses identify as Democrats or as politically liberal (the ratio of Democrat to Republican faculty has been shown to be about 10-1 nationally in the humanities and as much as 30-1 in certain liberal arts fields). When one considers the pressure on conservative faculty members to keep their views to themselves on these predominantly left-leaning campuses, it is hardly surprising that most of the political advocacy comes from the faculty left. It should therefore come as no surprise that the vast majority of students who complain about classroom indoctrination are conservative.
The students selected for our panel were those who had experienced classroom indoctrination firsthand and who had helped to organize academic freedom efforts on their campuses. Their political views did not factor into the equation, merely their experiences and involvement in the academic freedom movement. We would be more than happy to include liberal students who fit these criteria on the student panel in the future, but so far very few liberal students have come to us with complaints of classroom indoctrination. Our organization has defended liberal students from conservative political advocacy in the classroom, and has defended the rights of leftists (including Ward Churchill) to exercise their free speech rights, but such opportunities are rarely presented to us for the reasons mentioned above.
A second question raised by Campus Progress is whether student anecdotes describing political advocacy in the classroom qualify as evidence that students’ academic freedoms are regularly violated in our educational institutions. This question was addressed by David Horowitz during a panel discussion.
In this discussion, Horowitz made the point more than once that the academic freedom campaign relies not only on student testimony, which exists in abundance, but also on official university curricula which reveal that whole university departments are infused with political agendas, such as the Women’s Studies department at Santa Cruz, which has been renamed the Department of Feminist Studies to reflect its ideological character.
Finally, the claim is made by Campus Progress that it is hypocritical for advocates of smaller government “to talk about imposing HUGE government imposed control on schools.”
In the first place, no one in the academic freedom movement is talking about imposing governmental controls on schools. The Academic Bill of Rights is a re-formulation of the academic freedom policies of the American Association of University Professors, which are already included in the policies of hundreds of American universities. The problem that Students for Academic Freedom was created to address is that these policies are not being enforced and they are formulated only as teacher responsibilities, not student rights. The hearings currently being conducted in Pennsylvania were created for the purpose of determining whether the existing academic freedom policies of public colleges and universities are being enforced. All the existing legislation is in the form of resolutions urging universities to enforce their own academic freedom policies. There is no enforcement mechanism included in any legislation. Campus Progress knows this because we have stated these facts many times in the face of repeated attacks by our opponents.
Those interested in an accurate account of the conference can view our report here: