Friday, April 7, 2006, 2:30 p.m.
First National Academic Freedom Conference
Former State Sen. John Andrews (CO); Chair
Rep. Dennis Baxley (FL);
Rep. Gib Armstrong (PA);
Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook (KS);
Rep. Jeff Perry (MA);
David French; Center for Academic Freedom;
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: This is the one-minute warning for the next panel. It’s the panel you’ve all been waiting for. The dull stuff is over. You might want to tell folks out in the hall that the real fireworks are about to begin.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: You need to get [inaudible] to come up there to do the music.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: Anything but Michael Jackson. Welcome back, everybody. If you’ll take your seats, we will get started with the Legislative Issues Panel. Clearly, I am not Brad Shipp, the National Field Director of Students for Academic Freedom. I could only wish to be as young, talented, and energetic as Brad Shipp is. I’m John Andrews, Former President of the Colorado Senate. And I’ve been asked to stand in for Brad who had to leave to deal with a family situation.
We’re fans of the work that Brad and Sara do in the field for Students for Academic Freedom. But our responsibility on this panel, having discussed in the previous session the question, “Is Legislation Needed,” five of the six of us up here have been elected as legislators and have had the experience of battling over legislative statutory or resolution proposals in our respective states relating to the issue of academic freedom.
We’ll try to keep each presentation to five minutes in order to have time for interaction among the panelists and dialogue with all of you and still be back on schedule since we’re getting this started a little later than it was booked to start.
I’ll give you some thoughts of our experience in Colorado where we were the first state to move legislation at the suggestion of David Horowitz and Students for Academic Freedom. We will then hear from State Representative Dennis Baxley, a third-term House member in Florida, State Representative Gib Armstrong, former Marine officer, a third-term House member in Pennsylvania, State Representative Mary Pilcher Cook of Kansas, serving her second term there, State Representative Jeff Perry. Now, Gib, I know that you Marines like to think of yourselves as the few, the proud. But, Representative Perry, if there’s just 21 of you against how many Democrats in the Massachusetts House?
REP. JEFF PERRY: 139.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: So you are the few, the proud in another way. And then, we’ll ask for some concluding thoughts as far as recommendations about legislative approaches from the only non-legislator up here, but someone very well experienced in the battles, and this is David French, formerly of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE. You’ve heard them commended by Candace de Russy on the previous panel. And David is now with that other outstanding organization that Ruth Malhotra mentioned this morning, the Center for Academic Freedom newly established at the Estimable Alliance Defense Fund.
Before we start, and I wish David were here to properly receive this, I have to say that after we argued between anecdotes or data in the previous session, and what we call in politics, whenever you can get a person to describe his or her experience, we call it putting a human face on the problem. I would say that the most humanizing moment, the most vivid image that I received at the entire conference so far came in that situation that was described to us by Steve Miller when David Horowitz came to Duke a month ago. David then referenced it himself. And that was the protest that some professor organized where everyone was supposed to get naked to disrupt David’s speech.
If he were here, I’d tell him in person, but, David, we’ve admired you for unmasking the left. We never knew that you could undress them totally and, indeed, convince them it was their own idea. I’d say that if David keeps it up this way, he may be in fact a good contender next year for the coveted Sean Allen Award.
Our premise in Colorado beginning in June 2003 when, as Senate President. I hosted a private working breakfast meeting with David Horowitz and a number of House and Senate members, some members of the Governor’s staff, our premise was one that I don’t know has been articulated just this explicitly in our discussions as yet last evening and today. It is this – that education in a free society conducted by government-chartered organizations with tax dollars is not only permitted to, but indeed obligated to be carried on in a way which protects the essential conditions of a free society.
Liberty and order, as David Horowitz mentioned in passing at last night’s debate with Ward Churchill, tend to be taken for granted by the utopians among us. They can be taken for granted. The conditions of liberty and order, as America has learned to its sorrow in the last several years in our well intended, but unexpectedly difficult endeavor in Iraq, the conditions of liberty and order are not easily established or easily maintained. And they can come unraveled, tragically, rapidly.
It’s been said we’re only one generation from barbarism. And I think there’s some validity to that as we talk about how a free society conducts education under the mandate of government and with tax dollars coercively collected from all of the population.
Our approach in Colorado was to boil down the lengthy provisions of the Academic Bill of Rights simply to the thought that students ought not be penalized in the classroom for their beliefs, and that institutions ought to have grievance procedures. In June 2003, I set my staff to work on this at the Colorado Senate without going public because we wanted a bill drafted.
In September 2003, a disaffected staffer, who had attended our planning meeting seeking to settle a score with his boss, took the story to the Rocky Mountain News and we were set up in a wife-beating accusation situation where, without warning to me, the story broke that the Senate President and the Republicans controlling both Houses of our General Assembly wanted thought control and censorship and to clamp an iron hand of conservative dominance on all of our state-funded universities and colleges.
So we were playing from our own five-yard line from the very beginning of that effort in late 2003. I surveyed the university presidents, asked them what were their existing policies. They gave me a big pile of paper that looked good on paper. We then held hearings in December 2003 and we found that the implementation of those policies at the universities and the testimony of a number of students – call it anecdotal, if you like – was very weak. The implementation was weak.
A bill was filed in the House. I thought the House would be the best place to start the bill. We began to see – and it’s a general lesson I would leave with you about this process – that Republicans have a hard time getting this issue. Despite easy Republican control of the Colorado House of Representatives, an informal caucus of 10 moderates approached the sponsor of our Academic Freedom Bill and said, we will kill your bill. The university presidents didn’t know that.
And so, this House sponsor of the bill holding weak cards bluffed down the university presidents. And Colorado State, University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, which is our teacher college, and Metropolitan State, a huge urban institution–those four institutions signed a voluntary compliance memorandum in March 2004 to get the bill withdrawn, not realizing that the bill was unlikely to pass because, again, I repeat, a lot of Republicans don’t get it on this issue.
In the fall of 2004, again, still the Senate President, I held monitoring hearings. I asked the presidents of the four universities to come and report on the progress of their compliance. We again heard from students with horror stories. One was referenced by David Horowitz last night – the law student who was told in his opening day class, any of you Republicans, we know that “R” stands for racist. This happened to be a black tenured law professor. And when Mario Nicholas objected after class, the professor said, oh, yes, I know there are a lot of you little Nazis on this campus. And the administration did nothing about it. And we all have heard those stories.
We brought those forward in hearings in the Colorado Senate, joint hearings with our House of Representatives, in the fall of 2004. Republicans then lost majority control of both houses in November 2004, and one of the first bills filed by the new Democrat majority was a bill that would have done exactly what David–what Ward Churchill asked for in the debate last night. It would’ve said that neither administrators nor legislators can have any say-so whatsoever about the way faculty conduct themselves at a state-sponsored institution. It was that hermetically-sealed claim of expertise, that guild mentality that Tom Lucero, my friend, our Elected Regent from Colorado, referenced on the previous panel.
Here’s the significant thing about that bill from Democrat Senator Bob Hagedorn. And that was January 2005. On the first of February 2005, the world began to hear about Ward Churchill and the Hagedorn bill to provide hermetically-sealed discretion, or one might say license, and a total lack of accountability to professors at state institutions in Colorado. That bill was withdrawn.
We find ourselves now in 2006, and I again surveyed in preparation for this conference, the four university presidents. And although I’m no longer the Senate President, no longer in the Senate because of term limits, I was respectfully answered. And each of the university presidents gave me soothing words about their compliance. I’m still tending to doubt it. But we’re beginning to hear from governing boards that they would be interested in adopting as policy statements the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, which so far, has only the strength of the signature of the president of each of those four institutions.
I think you’ll hear parallel experiences from some of my colleagues about the way that legislation becomes, if not an end in itself, at least a lever to move this forward in the direction we would all like to see it go.
REP. DENNIS BAXLEY: Thank you very much. And I apologize for a little bit of laryngitis here. I’m going to try to hold this up close because I am weak-voiced. Okay? Are you all right?
What a pleasure a year and a half ago to be in a position to be at a conference where I heard David Horowitz share the whole idea of academic freedom and the bill that he proposed. And when I heard that, it struck a chord. I was immediately back as a sociology major at Florida State University sitting in a class where an archeology professor who on the very first day says, evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear anything about creation in here. And if you don’t like any of that, there’s the door.
Now, unfortunately, when that connection came and I shared that in testimony, my opponents grabbed that and we were redoing the Scopes Monkey Trial. And I said, I don’t care what they teach. It was the dogmatism. It was the force. And I did what every college student does. I slid down in my seat, kept my head down, spit back whatever they wanted, and I got out of there.
And the more I thought about that history, and as I looked at the history of my sons and the many stories that they brought home, I could see this insidious parallel to almost racism, and that no–everybody knows it’s going on, but everybody’s just come to accept it. And I said, I’m going to do something about this. And I came home and filed this bill.
Now what happened to our bill is we got it through. We have a committee structure that has four committees and then a council over that, and then it can go to the floor. And I passed this bill through the first Committee of Choice and Innovation and then we passed it out of council. Well then, everybody got nervous because they knew it could go to the floor. And when I did this I thought, you know, if I’m just a right-wing wacko, overly sensitive, then nobody’s really going to pay me any mind. But I said, if I’m on to something, I’m going to set off a grass fire that will go across this country with an explosion.
Folks, you don’t have a movement like this if it’s not connecting to anything. If there’s no substance to it, people would just look funny at you. The reason it’s a movement is because people connect to it. They know it’s true. I don’t care what your data is. And I’ll tell you, that OPPAGA study, that Office of Program Analysis study, was very misrepresented here. What it said is people aren’t filing complaints. Well, why would they have any confidence in a system that’s all designed to protect their abusers? That’s like interviewing the person who abuses the child and saying, well, there’s nothing wrong. And of course they are not going to risk what they have.
You know what an F does when a kid’s trying to get into medical school, like my first son, like Matt over here? You think he wants to take that risk? He’s going to do what I did. He’s going to slide down in the seat and let it go. And he’s going to spit back whatever they want to hear.
And also, the parallel to racism, this–what David Horowitz has done is he’s held up the mirror. He says you cannot believe what you believe and do what you’re doing. And that was how racism–that’s–with the Civil Rights Movement. We couldn’t believe what we believe about equality. We could not believe what we have in our founding documents and continue to allow to happen what was happening.
And folks, this academic freedom issue is just as real as the 1950s. And one of my reporters in the area wrote–I’ve got a very good understanding of this. He says, “If you’re not in the fish tank, is it wet?” It’s just where you live. It’s just the way it is. You don’t feel it. You don’t see it. You don’t sense it. And that’s why I don’t think it’s just denial. I really think they’re just in the fish tank and they don’t feel it. And then, there is the embarrassment factor once you are confronted with that image.
The good part – what I learned out of this deal – is there’s many purposes for filing a bill. And it’s our way of starting a discussion. Out of that, and because it passed two committees, do you think I would have had a serious meeting with all the presidents of the universities in Florida before cameras with them agreeing that we need to–what kind of environment we need to have? Some difference with me about whether they were making an effort to see that that happened. And yes, some things changed between that time and when the OPPAGA study was done. When the test is coming, guess what? People study and get ready.
And that’s why some of the answers were a little more favorable in the OPPAGA study. Because they knew they were being examined. But I learned that if you touch the hearts of people, get on your desk and touch the hearts of people, you can change the world. And we did have things happen – we could have some more things happen – because we were willing to engage.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: Thank you, Representative Baxley. Representative Armstrong?
REP. GIB ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Senator. And thank you, David Horowitz and the Students for Academic Freedom for hosting this wonderful forum. This is an important issue. It affects our nation and it affects the future of our country. And I applaud David for having the vision to spearhead this issue, not just in helping us out in Pennsylvania, but across the country.
Sam Rohrer, my colleague and good friend, is also here. And it’s been a pleasure working with him, with David French, and many others, to make the progress that we have made in Pennsylvania, and we’ll continue to make. We’ve got a couple of other folks here – Alan Levy, Steve Balch, who have also been very helpful in providing testimony at some of our hearings.
You know, we heard a little earlier that there is no data. Well, if that’s the case, if we’re just off looking for an ideological tooth fairy, then why not humor us? Just let us go look for the tooth fairy. If there’s nothing there for us to find, why does it matter? The reason it matters is because there’s something there and they know it. All of us in this room know it. And there is data. They just choose to ignore it.
ACTA did a survey of the top schools as reported by U.S. News and World Report and found that over 50% of all college students report that their professors, and at least one professor, would regularly indoctrinate from the lectern. And you have a student like Sean Allen stand up and talk about his experience and they say, well, you know, that’s only one. That’s just anecdotal. That’s not real data. It’s not real evidence.
Well, let’s talk about some of that evidence. In Pennsylvania, at a Pennsylvania state school, there was one racially email charge–there was one racially charged email sent to a student. That created a $10 million diversity program on that campus for one email, which was later discovered to have come not from that university, but from off-campus. So we spent $10 million to teach kids to be more racially sensitive to correct a problem that was not caused by a member of that college or a student at that college.
So I think they’re a little duplicitous when those on the left say, well, there’s just not enough evidence, or the evidence that you have doesn’t matter. If the evidence that we were showing was related to gender discrimination or diversity, or racial discrimination or diversity, it would be at the forefront of their attention.
Let me just talk a little bit about what we’re doing in Pennsylvania, what House Resolution 177 is not, and then what it is. It is not about imposing speech codes. We’re not interested in replacing left-wing speech codes with conservative speech codes. Nor are we interested in having the government in the classroom. I have no interest in reviewing textbooks. I have no interest in reviewing transcripts from a professor’s class. That is outside the purview of the legislature.
This is also not about getting more conservative professors hired. I don’t care what your ideology is, it ought not to come into the classroom or a public university. This is also not about advancing innuendo. Sean Allen is a real student with a real story. And we’ve got plenty others like him in Pennsylvania at the college level.
I have one minute.
Problems. Students don’t know that they can complain. Even some of my colleagues on the left have admitted that. Another problem we have is that higher education is a self-accounting institution. Name one other institution in the world that is self-accounting. I think therein lies a lot of the problem. What this is about is very simple. It’s getting universities to enforce their own policies.
What we have in higher education today are elements of a fear society, much like what we had in Eastern Europe in the last century. The way you confront a fear society is by having the courage to stand up and speak the truth. And when you do, the house of cards will fall and that’s what this is all about.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: Thank you very much, Gib. Representative Cook?
REP. MARY PILCHER COOK: Thank you. Thank all of you for being here today. Thank you, David Horowitz and Students for Academic Freedom, a very efficient and effective organization. I’ve been very impressed with the professional way that you have handled things and have communicated.
I was really struck by that debate last night. And one of the things that really hit me was when Ward Churchill said there is no truth. And then, he went on to say why he could then stress his own political ideology. I wonder if he believes that’s true. And that is what the debate is all about. Because our country is based on self-evident truths. That is the heart of America, that we hold these truths to be self-evident. That means they’re obvious. That means they don’t have to be debated. That means there are some things that we just know.
And one of those things that we know to be self-evident is that all men are created equal. And everyone should have the right to talk about their own views as students and professors should not take a position. They need to encourage the dialogue. They should not take a position in the debate. And that is part of what the AAUP talks about. One of the things that I was very excited about with the Academic Bill of Rights is that it repeats what the AAUP says. So I am very confused as to why they don’t support it.
Now, let me tell you how–a little bit about how I got into this debate because I’m fairly new at it. And I really didn’t think we had a problem in Kansas. But there was an email that came out by Professor Paul Mirecki. And he announced some courses that were going to take place at our campus university that were intended to ridicule the right-wing religious. So he–as the investigation went along, there was one email that kind of fleshed this out. As it went along, more discovery was taking place, that there is–actually he was a member on a KU email program, Society of Open-Minded Agnostics and Atheists.
When his email came out–oh, and I should tell you who Paul Mirecki is. He is the Chairman – the Chairman – of religious studies at Kansas University. So that raised a red flag. I called the Chancellor. The Chancellor says, well, this is academic freedom. I’m sorry this happened, but there is really nothing we can do about it. So I informed him that I was very concerned. Because this is something that I didn’t hear earlier on the panel.
There are people I represent who spend a lot of money, who send a lot of money into the state government. And they want a good college education for their kids. They don’t want a Chairman of Religious Studies to–in his further email he denigrated Jesus Christ, he denigrated the Bible with profanity, which is why I’m not quoting him. And there is indication that there were several other professors working on this with him and that the Chancellor would probably be supportive of it based on past communication.
So to me, that is what raised a red flag. And I said–I listened to David speak at UMKC a couple months before. I thought Kansas didn’t have a problem. Well, that was no longer the case. So I looked at the Academic Bill of Rights. Very impressed with it. It was just a resolution. It was not forcing anything on the universities other than what they already espoused. So I was very supportive. We had a hearing that went very well. It was very well received. I could see that those on the left and the right could see the problem.
Now, will we have the courage to act on it? Because I do believe that the survival of freedom in our United States depends on the survival of a basic understanding of the principles embraced in our Declaration of Independence. And if we have that academic freedom, we can make sure that our kids learn about it.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: That was from Kansas, the first battleground of the Civil War. And now, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the Revolution. Representative Perry?
REP. JEFF PERRY: Thank you. Well, greetings from Massachusetts, the home state of gay marriage, high taxes, soon to be universal health care, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barney Frank, and yours truly. There’s hope. There’s hope. God, I hope there’s hope.
Well, thank you, David, for organizing this. Thank you all for coming. This is important. This is important stuff. And as Representative Armstrong said earlier, the speakers who were before us were talking about anecdotes versus evidence. And I think they’re a little naïve how politics works in America. When they say, we need evidence, well, that’s not the world that I live in that government only responds to situations when there is evidence. I see a government – and I think my colleagues might share with me – that responds when anything happens.
We just passed a bill that requires everyone in Massachusetts to have a carbon monoxide detector in their house – a law with penalties. Probably a good idea that we all have one on our own. But now, it’s a law. And that was a result of one death. One death because of a defective chimney. And we passed this law. So to think that government only reacts and the legislatures only react when we get this big tractor trailer truck driving into the State House with all this empirical evidence proving beyond any reasonable doubt that we have to do it is a bit naïve and, well, those folks who were saying it are academics. And perhaps they are a bit naïve to think about what’s really going on in our university systems.
When we had the hearing in Massachusetts on House Bill 1234 that I filed, lots of evidence came before us. Evidence in the form of direct testimony from aggrieved students and professors. And within the Massachusetts university system, unrebutted evidence. No one from the left. The teachers’ unions were sitting in the gallery watching it. The press was there reporting it. Well, the press was there. And then, they reported something else. Rather than talking about the stories of the students, they chose to attack me and David and not the substance of the argument.
Now, I’m from Massachusetts. As the Senator from Colorado indicated, it’s 139 to 21. I don’t stand here with any great promise that my resolution is going to pass. But it’s worth filing again and again and again, and telling the story again and again and again so–to get people to listen. To get students to listen.
Hannah talked about–when she asked a question, which I don’t think was addressed, she suggested that there are students who aren’t politically-minded, and they take these classes and they take what the professor says as gospel. And I think that’s true. If you have a student taking a history class that’s really an English major, but they have to take that history class to meet their requirements, they may not be politically interested. They may not be politically-minded. And when they hear comments from professors about a certain political leader or about a political issue, they’re not interested. So it’s just going to pass through and it’s going to get indoctrinated in there. And if they hear it again and again and again for four years or six years or however long they’re in school, it’s going to–it’s going to have an effect.
And I just want to give you one example from Massachusetts and tell you what I’m focusing in my discussion of Massachusetts. This is from a gentlemen who was at UMass Dartmouth. He was in [Professor Lambaugh’s] class, an economics class, and he is an economics major. So when Professor Churchill last night said, well, David exposed Professor Churchill last night when Professor Churchill said to David’s comments that perhaps students should be aware of the free market and when they choose electives like the ones that he teaches, they should know what they’re getting.
That’s a compelling argument. If you sign up for Churchill’s class, you should know what you’re getting. But that’s not the problem that we’re talking about. We’re talking about required classes. We’re talking about high school classes, as we heard here before today. So this is an economics major. He’s a student. His name is [Ben Pansley]. And he had to take this microeconomics class.
And on the first day, it was an introduction to the class and the Professor talked about all of those important economic issues, such as his own drug use, his own experiences with acid, his own failed marriage, his own sexual interests. And so, the student got through the first day and said, well, it can’t be this bad. Day two was better. He started talking about economics. He started talking about price controls. And so, the teacher was giving his point of view, which was one-sided, in this student’s opinion. So he raised a hand and said, could you discuss the free market and cited Milton Friedman’s work.
Well, the Professor asked him if he was a Republican and he said he was. And according to this student’s account, he mocked him, made jokes about him. And so, the student, when he got through with class decided to send some information via email to the teacher about Milton Friedman thinking maybe he didn’t know who he was. It’s hard to believe, but this student thought maybe he didn’t know who he was. And the email that he got back indicated that the Professor demanded that he drop the class. And if he didn’t, he would file a complaint with the Dean for harassment.
Now, this student dropped the class, signed up for a history class, had to take the summer class with a different teacher in economics. This student didn’t know he had due process rights. This student didn’t know if there was a procedure in the University of Massachusetts. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is due process as it applies to the states. And it is a significant part of the Academic Freedom Bill, a resolution that I filed that David and his people drafted. It talks about notice. What’s the notice of the rights of the student? Opportunity to be heard. What opportunity does the student have to state his case if he feels aggrieved and to have it heard by a fair and impartial arbiter?
This student didn’t know if they existed. And quite frankly, he was so intimidated that if he stayed in that class he would have failed and it would have ruined his application for graduate school, that he saw no choice. He saw no due process. And I asked him, I said, well, how about in the beginning of school? That first day of school, did anyone talk to you about if you had a complaint against a professor or in your handbook? And he said he didn’t know. He said he didn’t remember. And he said, it wouldn’t matter because he was totally intimidated.
Like Candace said earlier, these kids–they are not all going to be debaters. They are not all going to be on the debating team. Some of these kids just are trying to get through school, trying to get to graduate school. And I think we have an obligation to all of the students and all of the professors who are trying to do the right think, to keep up with your work. And I thank you for doing your work across the country. I’m proud to do the work in Massachusetts. I don’t think we’re going to be too successful, but we’re going to keep trying.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: Finally, David French. He has never committed politics, unlike the rest of us.
DAVID FRENCH: Well, I thank the other panelists for letting a non-legislator sit on the panel. I have never committed politics. I think I could never win. But I have been involved in this process quite a bit. And there’s one thing that puzzles me about much of the discussion that we had earlier.
Let me start with a few legal propositions. I’m a lawyer. I have this weird, quirky little obsession with something called the law. And there’s a few clear legal propositions here. If you’re–number one, if you’re a professor at a public university, you are a state official. You’re an official of the state. That can’t be argued. In fact, if you do something wrong, if you violate the law in the scope of your employment and you harm someone in a way that a lawsuit results, guess who pays the bill? The state. So these are state officials.
The administrators who oversee colleges are state officials with a slightly higher rank on the state totem pole, but still state officials in the same way that the person who gives you your driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles is a state official.
Now, what’s interesting to me is that the state officials in these state institutions continually tell some of the highest ranking state officials, the legislature that funds these universities, that makes their very existence possible by appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars, they say to them, you have no business looking at us. What other state agency says this to the legislature?
Think about that for a second. If there was systematic abuse discovered in a state agency, whether it’s the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Motor Vehicles, you name it, is the answer of that state agency to the state legislature you have no business looking at us? You have no business investigating us. Of course not.
If there is systematic abuse in non-state entities in a state, such as an Enron, such as a disaster with a company, they can’t say to the state legislature you have no business investigating this. This is an amazing phenomenon to me. And to me, it’s the height of arrogance that state officials, that state institutions funded with hundreds of millions of dollars of public money, would say you cannot investigate us – the very existence of investigation is McCarthy-like.
So as a matter of law, these state legislators have a responsibility. It’s a constitutional responsibility. And what is that? Well, they have a responsibility to their constituents to provide for a good education for citizens of this state and citizens of other states who come in and take an advantage of the university system.
They also have another, and it’s a very important responsibility, and that is to defend and protect the basic liberties of the citizens of the state. That’s not just a judicial responsibility. That’s not just an executive responsibility. It’s also a legislative responsibility. And one thing that is astonishing to me during the experience of testifying before the Pennsylvania state legislature, and the experience of advising some members of the committee in the Pennsylvania Legislative Commissions was the total indifference with which many legislators greeted the systematic violation of constitutional rights.
If you want data, I’ve got your data. If you want anecdotes, I’ve got your anecdotes. The only thing is you have to realize that the argument about data and anecdotes is not made in good faith. The anecdotes that matter are their anecdotes. The data that matter is their data. So, for example, you can have one anecdote. A president of a major university gives a speech in which he says there might, heaven forbid, be biological explanations for differences in outcome in a certain field. And from that one anecdote results what? $500 million in diversity initiatives. Well, that anecdote mattered I think.
So what I’m here to suggest is let’s talk about the Academic Bill of Rights as far as bringing attention to these issues on campus. I can’t think of any other single initiative that has done more to bring attention to what’s happening on campus than the Academic Bill of Rights. I can’t think of anything that has more energized and engaged students across the country to approach public officials and their legislators about these issues than the Academic Bill of Rights.
But the Academic Bill of Rights is not the only legislative solution out there. I mean, in about one minute, I’m going to give you some legislative ideas that are simple and easy to enforce, reflect and protect values held by mass–vast majorities in both political parties, are either cost-neutral or would actually result in cost savings to citizens. How about this? A kind of education tax break. And that would over time have a profound effect on the campus culture. These are in the areas of free speech, free association, and forced speech.
Free speech, you can legislatively end the speech code in your state. You can end it. And in Pennsylvania, as David said earlier, about 80% of the colleges in Pennsylvania public universities have an unconstitutional speech code. That’s resulted in two losses so far. Well, actually, three total in the last three years. And will, no doubt, result in more if this is not changed. Ending the speech code. And I can–to anyone who’s interested later, we can talk about the exact language that ends–that does that.
Ending the tyranny of the suppression of the free exercise of religion and free speech by student groups. Did you know that over the last four years 60 major universities in this country sought to throw Christian student groups off campus? Bet you hadn’t heard that. It’s one of the underreported scandals in modern higher education.
And then, forced speech. Forced speech, the student activity fee. Michael Moore, last year or in–that’s not–my, how time flies. 2004 was not last year. But in 2004, went on a barnstorming tour to try to get people to vote for John Kerry against George Bush. To finance that, he received student activity fee money – that’s money that students must pay as a condition of being a student – to the tune of more than $2 million as a last minute allocation from more than 40 universities across the country to campaign against George Bush. You can eliminate the student activity fee and its massive subsidy of leftist indoctrination on campus.
And then, finally, you can seek information through a legislative regime that asks the kinds of questions in teacher evaluations that would provide the kind of hard data that some members of the previous panel claimed to crave.
All of these things are simple. All of these things involve the basic safeguard of constitutional rights. And all of these things would not cost the state much money at all, if any, and in the case of student activity fees, would save citizens hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
And to say that this doesn’t matter, to say that this is not a problem that needs to be addressed is to ignore overwhelming evidence. You can say back at your home state that unless we do this there is a high chance we’ll be sued. Here’s a list of the universities that have been sued and lost on the issue of violating the free association rights of their students. I just drafted this off the top of my head a couple of minutes ago. It’s under-inclusive. Penn State, Georgia Tech, the California State system, Penn State, again, Washburn University, Hastings University, Ohio State University–I’m sorry, The Ohio State University, Rutgers, Virginia, Wisconsin-Madison, SUNY Albany, University of Minnesota, Arizona State, and Southern Illinois. That’s just off the top of my head. That’s on the free association issue.
On the free speech issue, Penn State, a popular target, Georgia Tech, Temple, Texas Tech, SUNY Rockport–I thought we just heard recently there were no problems at SUNY. SUNY Albany – wow, SUNY, again – Shippensburg University, Troy University, Northern Kentucky University, Stanford, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, The University of Michigan. Just off the top of my head.
So if you want to avoid the pain and heartache of litigation in your state, one of the ways to do it is to safeguard basic civil liberties legislatively. A basic legislative regime that protects the civil liberties of the students should be passable and should be attainable.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: David French and all of the panelists, thank you very much. But I want to go down the panel quickly and see if we have responses to–brief responses to what we’ve heard from one another. And I would start that round simply by reminding you of the profound importance of what Mary Pilcher Cook said about we hold these truths to be self-evident, and contrasting it to there is no truth that you heard last night from Churchill.
What you heard from Churchill was not just sophomoric intellectual moonshine. It is that, but it’s deeper than that. This is classically Marxist dogma, friends. He only referred to Marxism in making a jab at David and the rest of us for thinking that legislation might be necessary. But you heard the articulation of a profound conviction from this man and so many others like him in the Academy today that right and wrong don’t objectively exist. They are socially constructed by power relationships. Truth and falsehood don’t objectively exist. They are socially constructed by power relationships. And that is the revolutionary thrust.
They want–this is a struggle for the soul of America. Or if you think of our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence as the operating system that makes this country work, we have been hacked into. We’ve got viruses, bugs. And we’re headed for a system crash as a country if we don’t defend the fundamental notion that truth is true and right and wrong are right and wrong. That is really the battle that I think we’re fighting here.
Are there further thoughts from panelists before we go to questions and comments from everyone?
REP. DENNIS BAXLEY: One thing that I would like to add is particularly painful to me is the manner in which this debate comes. And I guess it’s we’re messing with them. But I got an email, for example, that says, the prejudice, if it exists, is thoroughly deserved. Now, what kind of tolerance is that? And the attitude–I mean, the–and I’m telling you, I wouldn’t even read a lot of these to you. I get the worst cussing from professors that I ever got. I mean, I–and this is–you would expect intellectual debate about an issue–.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: –And you know that was–.
REP. DENNIS BAXLEY: –And it is an example of what these kids suffer when they’re there if they challenge. Because that’s what they do. If they don’t like what you say, they just jump you. And I’m not trying to say all professors. But I’m just saying the people who know they’re doing this and that we’re nailing, they’re screaming. And it is so ugly.
And the other dimension is this elitism that somehow they are wiser and more knowing and above all and can’t be touched. And this whole thing of you’re supposed to send money to the university system and ask no questions. It’s a very irresponsible position that they’re asking us as legislators to take.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: And you know, that was all summed up, Dennis, I thought, in the striking moment when [Professor Barbosa] just–I’m glad you came in the room–just nailed Terry Hartle about what is the prevailing methodology and data versus anecdote. And the best he could do was an utterly ungracious petty ad homonym shot at her personally. So you claim to be a professor. God help us.
Others from the panel?
REP. GIB ARMSTRONG: Maybe he did. A couple of quick thoughts. The most gratifying moment for me at our hearings came at Temple University where one of the testifiers spent a good deal of his testimony deriding David personally, as well as his Bill of Rights. And when it came time for me to ask questions, I said, well, first of all, let’s set the record straight. These hearings have nothing whatever to do with his Bill of Rights. These are purely to gather facts, not legislative. But since you raised the issue, please tell this panel what specific language in his resolution you propose we object to. And he said, well, it’s been a while since I’ve read it. And we had him [dead to rights].
David was in the room and I couldn’t resist. I said, well, Mr. Horowitz happens to be here. Perhaps he can provide you a copy. And David very graciously put a copy on his desk. And after a few minutes of stammering, the answer was, well, I just don’t like the tone, which was really no answer at all. What wonders me is these socialist leftist professors. And I respect and have made friends on the other side of the aisle who are sincere liberals, and with them we can have honest debate. But the leftists who are out to destroy America, why don’t they just go to Cuba? If they want a Socialist country to live in, especially if they live in Pennsylvania. You can get a much warmer climate. If things are so much better in a Socialist society, just go to Cuba.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: Others from the panel? We can go to the floor. Jeff?
REP. JEFF PERRY: Well, Representative Armstrong, they could come to Massachusetts. [Some folks are] already there. So–.
You know, just one of the hypocrisies of this, at least how I see it in Massachusetts, and I think I saw it here today with some of the previous panel members, is the hypocrisy of the union officials. When we had the hearing in Massachusetts, as I alluded to in my previous opening comments, the union officials were there. And I can’t imagine that union officials would be against something that says all faculty members shall be hired, fired, promoted, or granted tenure on the basis of their competence and appropriate knowledge in their fields of expertise and so on.
It’s–this is a clear example of how the unions – and we saw it here with the gentleman sitting in this place before – who are not really interested in the promotion of good education, who are not interested in promoting their membership to become better teachers, that they’re interested in promoting a political agenda, as long as it’s their own agenda. And we have to be leery of that as we go forward and be cognizant that it’s not a fair fight, that they have a lot of special interest money, they have a lot of support in the mainstream media. And the way that we fight that is to continue to tell the story, to continue to use these anecdotes or evidence, as we may characterize them, and to keep the message going strong.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: Let’s go to questions and comments from any of you. Matt?
QUESTION: My question is for Mr. French. I’m a student at Florida State University, and I’m the head of our SAF Chapter there. And the one thing you said that really hit home with us is the student fees on campus. So we’re kind of at a point now where last spring we went back and got the budgets going back to 1989 of our student government. And we went in piece-by-piece using our student government records and we categorized them as conservative and liberal. And we did it standardized for both ways. We did it by the speakers they brought in. We have people coming in that obviously are going to promote conservative values and people coming in that are obviously going to promote liberal values.
So we went back and forth, and categorizing them using the speakers, we have about six to seven liberal organizations that are all funded by student government on campus and we have one conservative group. The range of funds on average is about $80,000 a year to liberal groups to about $10,000 a year to conservative groups. And this is going back, like I said, all the way to 1989. Our student government has a budget of about $8.5 million right now. And every cent of that comes from taxes on our tuition.
So I’m just wondering, from a legal standpoint and from our standpoint, knowing that we have the data that they so–desire so greatly, we have the data, we have the evidence. I can show them graphs and charts and everything else. What do we do with that and how do we cite it?
Well, I think there’s two things that you do. One, if you have–if there is a group that has a liberal counterpart, in other words, there is college Republicans and then there’s college Democrats. The–one of the problems that conservative groups have had traditionally is they’ve not applied for the same amount of funding that the liberal groups have. They’ve applied for much less. And so, if you make a complaint, then they’ll say, well, we gave you what you applied for.
So you seek an equivalent allocation of funds first. If the equivalent allocation of funds is denied, at that point you then would appeal it through the–there is almost always an appeal process. If the equivalent allocation is denied, at that point you may very well have a claim under governing Supreme Court precedent for viewpoint discrimination. And there’s multiple cases along this line. And at that point, I would encourage you to contact our organization, Alliance Defense Fund, and we can take a look at it and see if there’s a legal claim.
But I would also encourage you to contact your state legislator because one of the powerful things that the members of the Pennsylvania Select Committee on–the opposing members of the Pennsylvania Select Committee on Academic Freedom said is, ” I’ve been a state legislator for 25 years and I’ve never received a complaint.” And that was something that resonated in the media. So contacting your state legislator and saying this state entity is appropriating my money for free expression purposes and then funding one side of the spectrum and not the other is–can be a very effective way of combating that. So I would suggest those things.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: A question over here.
QUESTION: Yes. My name is [Judy Wolfnig]. I’m from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. And yes, we have the same kinds of problems. I had two and a half comments. One, you’re the–or you were the President of–?
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: –I was the President of the Colorado Senate and left last year on a term limit. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Because I had a proposal for the citizens of Colorado to save their tax money. If Ward Churchill believes that there is no truth, why don’t you just abolish the whole system of education from K through anything? It would save the taxpayers a great deal of money.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: The power in the room right now in Colorado is our Elected Regent, Mr. Lucero, and I’ll send him home with that idea. That’s your half comment, I’m thinking?
QUESTION: Well, no, I have another one. I have been involved in this kind of business since I guess 1969. Sidney Hook founded an organization called the University Centers for Rational Alternatives. And this is when it was students–politically organized students were terrorizing universities and universities just caved in all over the place. I mean, the cowardice was astonishing. Now, we have the NAS and so on.
If you–I have suggested before. I will suggest it again. If someone would put together the documents. We had a newsletter called [Mentor], which came out every month. Put it together because it’s very interesting information. Now, one piece fits in with what our student is talking about – the student activities fee. At my university – and I know it was true at many universities in the United States – there is an organization whose name I have forgotten. But it was founded by Ralph Nader. And it’s one of these–do you know what the name is?
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: P-I-R-G?
QUESTION: PIRG. Yes, PIRG. We have WPIRG. And there is a separate fee collected not in the student activities fee I don’t believe or maybe [inaudible] the student activities fee goes to the Federation of Students [inaudible]. This goes to–.
SEN. JOHN ANDREWS: We have fought that in the Colorado legislature. I bet you each of these respective legislatures has fought over whether the students can affirmatively check off to give to the PIRG, at which point it’s a voluntary contribution, or is it negatively checked off against them, as Matt said, at which point it’s a de facto tax.
I’m looking at the clock. Representative Armstrong says he needs to catch a plane. And we all have to get back on schedule here. Let me leave you with this thought that I mentioned before. Why do we as a free society educate through the majesty of the law and with the resources of tax dollars? I submit to you that it is not so that we can subsidize institutions dedicated to the self-hatred, and perhaps, ultimately, the self-termination of our free society. But rather, so that we can foster our self-preservation as a free society, our self-criticism within reasonable bounds, and hopefully, our self-improvement.
And that is the stark contrast I think that is set up between the dominant powers in most universities now and that which we wish to see properly restored. David Horowitz made an interesting remark earlier. He spoke about the way in which he identifies with what liberals once identified with. This is no longer about liberals and conservatives, friends. We can have a civil dialogue, as Gib Armstrong said a moment ago. It’s now about radicals and hard-leftists that wish to see America become something utterly, utterly different.
The five of us who have served in state legislatures, and if I’m not mistaken, our friend on the end who has taken the oath as an officer of the court to be in the Bar, we’ve sworn an oath to the Constitution of the United States. And again, I make the analogy to an operating system or to the central nervous system of your body, the body politic. This is about control of the central nervous system, the soul. The operating system has been hacked into. It has bugs. It has viruses. It’s headed for a system crash if we don’t recognize it.
I take my oath to the Constitution seriously. I know my legislative or Bar Association colleagues do the same. And I trust that all of us have that commitment.
Thank you very much.
[End of disc 5 – 2:30 Legislative Issues Panel]