By David Horowitz–Greeley Tribune–03/29/05
More than a year ago, a student at the University of Northern Colorado was given a final exam in which she was required to explain either why George Bush was a war criminal or why the United States’ “invasion” of Iraq was a criminal act. The student, who is too frightened of reprisals from her professors and the university administration to come forward herself, claims she answered the question by explaining why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal and received an “F”. She made a formal appeal to university authorities and her grade was raised to a “B.” For a year I used her case as one of many to illustrate why Colorado students need a “bill of rights.” Neither of these questions is appropriate to an educational institution because they force the student answering them to have one politically correct answer.
A controversy has arisen around this exam, and because I have spoken up for the student, my integrity has been impugned by the professor, Robert Dunkley, who designed the question, and by a university spokesman. The only reason there is a controversy, however, is that the university administration has engaged in a cover-up and withheld information from the public and that Professor Dunkley destroyed all copies of the exam itself, and thus the evidence that would resolve these issues. Destruction of the exam, by the way, is against both university policy and the law.
This hasn’t prevented Professor Dunkley from telling the press that the student’s answer to the question was inadequate because she only wrote two pages when she was required to write three. But how would he know, since by his own testimony he destroyed all copies of the exam? Dunkley has also told the Tribune that three of his students have confirmed to him that the version of the question he provided during the appeal, and which the university has provided to the press, was the original question and not a doctored version as the student maintains. Obviously this issue has become highly politicized, and it is not surprising that he could find three students to support his version, which is substantively the same as the one the student remembers. But there is no evidence to decide who is telling the truth. And why would the student, who got a “B” in the course, make up the claim that she answered it by writing that the war criminal was Saddam Hussein?
Professor Dunkley was interviewed by a reporter from the Tribune a few days ago and was quoted saying that I could have learned the truth about the exam by asking him directly. In fact, I couldn’t ask him, because until last week I didn’t know his name. For an entire year while I publicized this case, he refused to identify himself or come forward to make the claims he is now making. The student herself was too frightened to give me his name and only did so when the very existence of the exam and the professor (and even the student) was challenged by an op-ed writer in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and promptly became a cause celebre on the Internet. It is more than a cause celebre; it is an attack on the student and myself and the academic freedom campaign. Without the evidence of the exam, and therefore without the evidence, both the Denver Post and the Tribune have sided with the university and the professor and impugned the veracity of the student’s story and mine.
The university has said the student didn’t fail but got a “B” but deceptively doesn’t say whether that grade refers to the course or to the disputed exam. The student maintains that she was failed on the final exam but that her final grade was raised to a “B” on appeal. I believe the student. Why would she appeal a grade that was a “B”? But more importantly, why would I believe the university or Professor Dunkley, who have withheld and destroyed the evidence that would end this controversy for people who are not ready to take their word at face value?
David Horowitz is a nationally known conservative author and speaker. He is the author of numerous books and the Academic Bill of Rights.