Foaming Campus Cleanser Sputters At Temple
Foaming Campus Cleanser Sputters At Temple
David Horowitz's attacks on liberal academics includes the so-called Academic Bill of Rights and ridding college campuses of what he calls anti-war academics who 'hate America'
Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)
This column is dedicated to the memory of Stew Albert, the Brooklyn-born anti-Vietnam War activist and co-founder -- along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin -- of the irreverent Yippies (Youth International Party), who kept up the fight for social justice his entire life; and Coretta Scott King who, while at the side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a stalwart heroine of the civil rights movement, and who kept up the fight for the human rights and dignity of all people throughout her lifetime.
In early December, aiming to start out 2006 with a bang, David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC) sent out a fundraising appeal asking for contributions to place full-page advertisements in campus newspapers across the country warning students that they are surrounded by anti-American leftist academics who hate America.
A month later, at a hearing on academic freedom at Temple University sponsored by a committee of the state legislature of Pennsylvania, Horowitz could find only one student to testify against "liberal" professors on campus; that testimony was purely anecdotal, as the student had not filed an official grievance with the university.
At a previous committee hearing, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Rep. Dan B. Frankel, a Democrat who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pittsburgh, [pointed out] that [since] the issue of potential political discrimination at state universities had received a considerable amount of publicity since the committee's previous hearing three months ago... he might have expected students to come forward with complaints, but none have done so. 'It seems to me we may be overblowing this problem,' he said. 'I don't have streams of people coming to me.'"
Horowitz, the President and founder of the Los Angeles-based CSPC, is the former sixties radical who became a Reagan Republican during the 1980s and an influential conservative political strategist over the past decade.
Horowitz has perfected the permanent and multi-faceted campaign, a campaign that consists of pre-emptive strikes against opponents, branding those opponents anti-American, and the maintenance of a never-ending fundraising drive to fill his organization's coffers.
While Horowitz's Students for Academic Freedom has been pushing state legislatures to pass a rather benign-sounding Academic Bill of Rights -- legislation he claims is aimed at leveling the playing field and opening up America's public universities to more diverse voices -- his December fundraising appeal wasn't a kinder gentler appeal to reason. Instead, Horowitz accused offending academics are of "not [being] anti-war ...They just hate America. And they're camped out in our classrooms spewing their hatred to our young, future leaders."
The fundraising solicitation was headlined "Help Me Expose Intellectually Corrupt Universities," dated December 1, Horowitz asked for $131,250 to run full-page newspaper advertisements in college newspapers across the country that would "expose the Ward Churchills of America." (Churchill is the tenured University of Colorado professor who came under fire for controversial -- some say insensitive -- comments he made in the aftermath of 9/11.)
Churchill has received concentrated attention from Horowitz's FrontPage magazine website, and Horowitz wanted donors to know that "there are many, many more where he [Churchill] came from."
Touting the "tremendous strides" his organizations made against the left on campuses in 2005, Horowitz wanted to "get students, professors, and administrators' attention: [and let them know that] we're watching radicals on campuses and we're going to expose them to the public! We know from experience that running ads in 250 student newspapers that nearly 500,000 people will see this ad and be exposed to our Discoverthenetworks.org" -- a CSPC-sponsored website that "casts a bright light on the radical left and shows, in detail, the connections between hundreds of radical organizations ... [including] the financial support these groups receive from left-wing foundations, like Ford, MacArthur and Pew, and self-serving billionaires like George Soros and Peter Lewis."
The first targets on Horowitz's list were Cal Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, universities that he claims are "the hotbed schools for anti-Americanism."
The "radical left" has an "anti-American agenda," Horowitz wrote. "They're not anti-war. They just hate America. And they're camped out in our classrooms spewing their hatred to our young, future leaders."
Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights
Another prong in his attack on liberal academics takes a generally -- but not always -- "kinder gentler" approach and is being carried out by Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), a Horowitz-sponsored operation.
The group's website provides students from colleges and universities across the country with a platform to testify as to how they been embarrassed, harassed, criticized, been the victims of vicious indoctrination campaigns and otherwise treated unfairly by a liberal instructor on their campus. Whether these complaints have any basis to them does not seem to concern SAF staffers. The grievances provide the anecdotal bedrock for Horowitz's nationwide campaign to get some form of Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) legislation passed in individual states, as well as in Congress.
According to PR Watch's Molly Riordan, "A casual reading of ABOR might appear to support his [Horowitz's] claim that it is a 'non-partisan' bill. It requires that hiring, firing and faculty tenure decisions be made regardless of political beliefs; that professors present their students with a 'broad range of serious scholarly opinion' without ignoring those they oppose; and that grievance procedures be established to manage reports of student abuse."
Leaders of Students for Academic Freedom -- which was founded by Horowitz in 2002 and now has some 150 campus chapters -- claim that its Academic Bill of Rights campaign is designed to open up the nation's college campuses to more diverse voices. In an interview with PR Watch's Riordan, SAF's national campus director Bradley Shipp told her that he "encourage[s] [students] to use the language that the left has deployed so effectively in behalf of its own agendas. Radical professors have created a 'hostile learning environment' for conservative students. There is a lack of 'intellectual diversity' on college faculties and in academic classrooms. The conservative viewpoint is 'under-represented' in the curriculum and on its reading lists. The university should be an 'inclusive' and intellectually 'diverse' community."
In a recent New York Times article titled "Professors' Politics Draw Lawmakers Into the Fray" (December 25, 2005), Michael Janofsky reported on a complaint leveled against a physics professor at the York campus of Pennsylvania State University that caused the state legislature to get involved. According to Janofsky, Jennie Mae Brown claimed that the professor "routinely used class time to belittle President Bush and the war in Iraq," Brown, a veteran of the Air Force "said she felt the teacher's comments were inappropriate in the classroom."
Brown's complaint, Janofsky reported, "blossomed into an official legislative inquiry, putting Pennsylvania in the middle of a national debate spurred by conservatives over whether public universities are promoting largely liberal positions and discriminating against students who disagree with them."
Within the past few years, Horowitz's campaign "produced more debate than action," Janofsky wrote: "Colorado and Ohio agreed to suspend legislative efforts to impose an academic bill of rights in favor of pledges by their state schools to uphold standards in place. Georgia passed a resolution discouraging 'political or ideological indoctrination' by teachers, encouraging then to create 'an environment conducive to the civil exchange of ideas.'"
Several other conservative organizations are battling for "diversity" on America's college campuses. In a recent op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, David Davenport, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, pointed out that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) -- an organization founded in 1995 as the National Alumni Forum by Lynne Cheney, Colorado's former Democratic Governor, Richard D. Lamm, and Democratic Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut -- recently issued a report entitled "Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action," which found that "the most serious challenge for higher education today is the lack of intellectual diversity." (Horowitz's FrontPage magazine ran ACTA's press release on December 14, 2005.)
Molly Riordan's excellent PR Watch piece also looked at the role that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a powerful, yet relatively unknown group which provides state legislatures with sample legislation on a broad array of conservative issues -- may be playing in publicizing Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights:
On April 30, 2004, ALEC's Education Task Force met in Austin, Texas, to draft a model bill and resolution regarding ABOR. Almost without exception, their language was taken verbatim from Horowitz's original document.
[SAF's Bradley] Shipp claims he did not know how SAF was involved in the ALEC drafting. 'I'm almost positive that we sent them copies of our bill,' he said, but was unsure who was consulted in the drafting. He indicated that Horowitz had spoken at ALEC conferences on several occasions. 'There were Congressmen who were independently concerned with issues of academic freedom, asked for the education lobbyists' input. They came up with language that everyone agreed upon.' Shipp insists that ALEC's involvement is not indicative of a conservative agenda behind the 'academic freedom' campaign.
According to Riordan, ALEC's Education Task Force director Lori Drummer did not respond to her "request for an interview, and "no information is available on how many state legislatures have considered ALEC's model legislation."
Nevertheless, depending on who is doing the counting, Academic Bill of Rights legislation is pending in from 11 to 19 other states. The New York Times' Janofsky pointed out that in 2005, House and Senate committees "passed a general resolution ... encouraging American colleges to promote 'a free and open exchange of ideas 'in their classrooms and to treat students 'equally and fairly.'" Further Congressional action is expected this year.
Showdown at Temple
Meanwhile, in early January at Temple University in Philadelphia, Horowitz hoped that a two-day legislative hearing on academic freedom would sizzle with accusations of liberal misdeeds. Instead, it fizzled.
Pennsylvania is the only state to have held academic freedom hearings; the Temple University inquiry was the second of four scheduled by the state's House Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education.
According to Philadelphia Inquirer staff reporter Patrick Kerkstra, "The sole student to appear before the legislative committee acknowledged he had never filed a formal grievance."
"We have reviewed our records and we do not find any instances in which students have complained about inappropriate intrusion of political advocacy by teachers in their courses," Temple University President David Adamany told legislators and a crowd of about 50 people who attended the public hearings, held in a second floor Student Center conference room, The Temple News, an independent student newspaper, reported. "Nor have we found instances of complaints by students that they were improperly graded because of the views they set forth in their courses."
At the end of day one, Rep. Gib Armstrong (R. - Lancaster), the conservative lawmaker largely responsible for getting the hearings approved by the Pennsylvania House, appeared frustrated that no students had filed official grievances against Temple academics. "If there are students out there who feel their rights are being abridged, they need to speak up," Armstrong said.
That Academic Bill of Rights legislation and/or ABOR-type initiatives are being considered in a number of states, is clearly is due to the relentless efforts of Horowitz and his Students for Academic Freedom.
According to The Temple News, on the second and final day of the hearings, Horowitz -- who closed out the proceedings -- introduced himself to the 12-member panel with four words: "I'm the scary guy."
According to Inside Higher Education, after the hearings at Temple, which Horowitz "admitted that he had no evidence to back up two of the stories he has told multiple times to back up his charges that political bias is rampant in higher education."
In a post-hearing interview, "Horowitz said that his acknowledgements were inconsequential, and he complained about 'nit picking' by his critics. But while Horowitz was declaring the hearings 'a great victory' for his cause, he lost some powerful stories. For example, Horowitz has said several times that a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University used a class session just before the 2004 election to show the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, but he acknowledged Tuesday that he didn't have any proof that this took place."
Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers, pointed out that "So much of what he [Horowitz] has said previously has been exposed to be lies or distortions that it makes any of his examples questionable. It should give this committee and any committee anywhere in the country pause about considering an Academic Bill of Rights. The bottom line is that there's not a lot of there there."
more please see the Bill Berkowitz archive.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.