As the new semester gets underway, the academic freedom movement is making headlines in publications across the country. The Chronicle of Higher Education made note of SAF’s efforts to promote an Academic Bill of Rights in a front-page story highlighting the trials faced by conservative professors on overwhelmingly leftist campuses while the Yale Herald’s cover story focused on the increasing problem of classroom indoctrination as the 2004 election approaches.
The Chronicle story profiled several conservative professors, each of whom had faced blatant discrimination on campus due to their political views. University of Montana Law Professor Robert Natelson was denied an opportunity to teach a constitutional law class four times, relenting only when an outside mediator ruled that he should be given an opportunity to teach the course. “The law school apparently views this course as politically sensitive and has kept it in liberal hands for over 20 years,” he stated in an appeal of his rejection.
James Miller, an associate professor of economics at Smith College, was denied tenure despite an excellent record, due to his colleagues’ apprehensions about his conservative political beliefs. One member of the tenure committee stated openly in a letter to Smith’s president that she was “disturbed” by an article Miller had written for National Review Online on the lack of patriotism among college faculty. Miller won an appeal of that decision and was finally granted tenure by the campus’s tenure and promotion committee which stepped in to overrule the economics department.
The Yale Herald, a weekly student newspaper at Yale University, examined the issue partisanship in academia from the perspective of conservative students, rather than professors. “Many professors on campus make a concerted effort to leave this year’s presidential election out of the classroom. But for those who choose to take on the subject, there is a fine line between that which is pedagogically relevant to the subject at hand, and that which might be viewed as pure politicking,” stated the piece.
The article quoted one Yale student who told the Herald that a professor had “mentioned during one of his classes, as a side note which was hardly even tangentially related to the subject at hand, that he was rather sure that he knew for whom both Hegel and Kant would vote in the coming election. Kerry, of course, was implied by this, though his name was never mentioned."
“A small incident, certainly, but indicative of a tendency to insert less-than-sophisticated leftist political commentary into the classroom without any particular explanation,” the student commented.
The article also commented on SAF’s efforts to combat classroom indoctrination, noting, “the existence of SAF is a testament to the fact that the politicization of the college classroom is a major concern among at least some students.”
One of those students is University of Michigan junior Jeston La Croix, who in a detailed article for Frontpage Magazine described the many obstacles he has faced as a conservative on UM’s Ann Arbor campus. As a freshman, La Croix placed a cartoon denigrating racial preferences in admission on his dorm room door, and was soon accosted by his Residence Advisor and the Assistant Hall Director who ordered him to take it down because it offended some of the other students and was “racist.” Only after contacting a lawyer and the local chapter of the ACLU did the University permit La Croix to return the cartoon to his door.
More recently, La Croix was outraged over the comments made by Prof. Daniel Levine, the outgoing chair of the Political Science Department at UM, who said that he is not sympathetic towards conservative students whose classmates are hostile toward their beliefs because, “If I would’ve announced myself as [being with] students for apartheid in South Africa, I would’ve gotten a negative reaction too.”
“I get it,” La Croix states in his article. “Republicans are racists and supporters of apartheid, and should be grateful that liberals like myself tolerate their existence and don’t lynch them.” The full text of the article is available here.
Another egregious example of political discrimination is currently underway at Cornell University where the student government has voted to freeze the funding of the Cornell American, one of the few conservative student publications on campus. The student government finance board claims that the American “deceived” them when it applied for funding because it represented itself as a literary society. Apparently, conservative journalism isn’t deemed to be literary enough. Led by SAF President Ross Blankenship, the editors of the American are fighting back and have issued a press release chastising the student government for condoning censorship. The full press release can be found here.
If you have experienced political diatribes or indoctrination in the classroom, you don’t have to stand by and watch. Please send me an e-mail at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or contact our Washington office at 919-363-3700 to learn how you can bring the academic freedom movement to your campus.