(Editor’s Note: Last year, Students for Academic Freedom defended the Metropolitan State College of Denver College Republicans when Professor Oneida Meranto, the faculty advisor for the Political Science Association, told the College Republican that they “need to withdraw from the Political Science Association,” accusing them of conspiring with a conservative think tank to have her fired. Dr. Meranto offered no evidence for this preposterous assertion.
Metro State College Republican Chairman George Culpepper reported Dr. Meranto’s comments in testimony before a state senate hearing which was called to determine if an Academic Bill of Rights should be adopted for Colorado students.
Now it has come to our attention that another student, William Pierce, chose to drop Dr. Meranto’s class this term after being subjected to a series of insulting comments and political tirades aimed at Republicans and conservatives in her introductory lecture on Monday, August 24th. Such remarks constitute a blatant violation of the principles of academic freedom and the Memorandum of Understanding, which Metro State President Raymond Kieft signed last March. The Memorandom states, “No student should be penalized because of political opinions that differ from a professor’s. Every student should be comfortable in the right to listen critically, and challenge a professor’s opinions.”
William has filed a formal letter of complaint with the school’s Equal Opportunity Office, which you may read below)
Dear Dr. Morehouse,
I’m a second semester student at Metro State. The background I bring to the college experience is rather unique. I have a background in commercial art and spent two years at The Art Institute of Colorado. My disposition is unique as I’m also a young and active Republican. Some of the greatest learning experiences of my life have come through honest and respectful conversations with those on the opposite of my beliefs. I consider myself to be a very open minded and a highly intellectually honest individual. The majority of my professors throughout my academic career have been liberal. Such facts have never lead to a problem. On the contrary I have earned the respect of these professors, an opinion that is mutual. However, on Monday, August 24, 2004, my rights as a student were blatantly infringed upon. I was a student in the 8:30am class of Dr. Oneida Meranto.
My knowledge of Dr. Meranto was limited. I had received the opinion of a friend that indicated she was very liberal; however, this was not a problem in the past and I did not anticipate one in this case. My perception of Dr. Meranto was not going to be formed for me. I pride myself on hard work. I figured going into her class, I would bring nothing less. I possessed no knowledge of Dr. Meranto’s previous controversies. She was simply a name on my schedule. I was aware of the basics of the Academic Bill of Rights as an issue, but was not aware of Dr. Meranto’s personal connection to the topic. Plainly stated, my opinion of Dr. Meranto didn’t exist. I walked into her class with an open mind and a healthy respect for her position as a professor. I expected the following seventy-five minutes to be no different than past experiences. I was there to learn and further my pursuit of a degree. I’m passionate about learning and was excited to return to the classroom after three weeks off. That zeal quickly manifested to fear.
Throughout her introductory lecture, she attacked Republicans. She inferred that we are incapable of thinking critically, and should therefore drop her class. She posed the question, why are most of us in the academic world on the left. She answered her question with the following: It’s because those of us on the left are those capable of thinking critically. This statement clearly indicates her belief that those on the right of the political debate are incapable and do not engage in critical thinking. I tried objecting to the statement as I’m never afraid to stand up for myself, but she continued to speak. It was not my intention to be rude and interrupt, but rather respond to such a false and inflammatory premise. She further communicated that those who are incapable of critical thinking, should immediately drop this class, because you will not succeed. This was a clear threat to any Conservative student sitting before her. She continued to reiterate these statements throughout her lecture.
Dr. Meranto then proceeded to relay her experiences of the last months, specifically in regards to the Academic Bill of Rights. She made no attempt to hide her anger and hatred towards the Republican students on campus. It was the most hateful and vehement lecture I’ve endured. Her speaking patterns often became screaming. She then conveyed her suspicion that the College Republicans had planted people in her classes to check up on her. It was clear that once she realized my political ideas that I would not be judged fairly. It must be made clear that no one had approached me about checking up on her. As previously stated, I approached her class with no preconceptions.
She stated that she has received the full support and backing of the School President and would be protected from any accusations. She stated that she was targeted simply because she was a female minority and in the minds of white America that made her dispensable.
The experience became very troubling to me. It progressed to the point of making me feel sick. Hiding my beliefs were not an option, nor should I ever feel such means are essential to excel as a student. Any goal is achievable in my opinion without one being required to compromise one's core.
The statements made by Dr. Meranto violated my rights. The consequences of her threats have forced me to drop this class. I’m disappointed and frustrated to find myself in such a position. The future goal of attending law school requires the highest academic discipline and achievements. Academic excellence upon my part is mandatory to achieve this goal. After one quarter of summer classes, I achieved a GPA of 4.0. I have every intention to maintain it. I fear that staying in Dr. Meranto’s class will inhibit this achievement. Her threats and anger created a hostile environment in which it is reasonable to believe that I will not be graded accordingly. Dr. Meranto’s intimidation has forced me to consider my options, a position no student should ever be forced to confront.
Dr. Meranto's actions and statements were highly unprofessional.
It is due to this that I wish to file an official complaint with your office. No student, regardless of his or her political credo should ever feel the intimidation that Dr. Meranto presented during her introductory lecture. Such behavior will only damage the educational experience for future students. Such actions should not be tolerated.
Thank you for your time on such an important matter. Please feel free to contact me for any follow up.
William R Pierce