A CRIMINOLOGY professor asked his class to write an essay on "Why George Bush is a war criminal." One student balked and instead turned in a piece on why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal. He got an F.
Conservatives cite the case, from a university in Colorado, as an example of what they describe as rampant liberal bias in American academia. Outraged, they are seeking politicians¹ backing to guarantee intellectual diversity on campus through an academic bill of rights.
The charter would establish such principles as "faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or antireligious indoctrination."
Lawmakers in Georgia have adopted the measure already in a non-binding resolution and it has been raised in other state legislatures and the House of Representatives, where it is still pending.
The campaign, which reignites the culture wars of the 1980s, was launched by David Horowitz, a former scion of the new Left, who is now a neoconservative author and president of the independent Centre for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles. "We need the legislation to say, 'This is a university, not a political party. Cut it out!'" he said.
Conservative students who feel put upon by their left-wing professors have rallied to the cause, establishing 133 chapters of an organisation called Students for Academic Freedom.
The group¹s website, www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org, catalogues dozens of complaints of perceived bias. Many complain about professors mocking President Bush or lecturing classes about their anti-Iraq war views. One professor is said to have required students to write -- and send -- anti-war letters to the White House. Another student said that his professor¹s first words in class were : "I love Hillary Clinton."
Stephen Beale, who studies classics and history at Brown University in Rhode Island, said: "Often in classes professors will make jokes about President Bush. They will do it in such a way that the student, who may be a Republican, feels his views are not welcome."
Others object to specific assignments. A Miami University professor, for example, told students in his dance class to pick a same-sex partner for a day and walk around town pretending to be gay.
Mr Horowitz traces the problem to the campus activism against the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. He said: "What happened was this: there were student deferments from the draft; the universities became the loci of the anti-Vietnam War movement; they stayed on and became professors. They are revolutionaries manqués."
Mr Horowitz¹s think-tank conducted a survey of the political affiliations of liberal arts professors at leading American colleges and found that more than 90 per cent were registered Democrats. At Harvard, 50 of the 52 professors were Democrats. All 15 sociology professors, all but one of the 16 economics staff and all but one of the 21 political science faculty were Democrats.
At Brown University, all the English, history, political science and sociology professors were Democrats. There was one Republican professor in the economics department.
Conservative students at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, felt so persecuted they organised a coming-out week < to come out not as gays but as Republicans.
Many professors oppose an academic bill of rights. Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, described it as "the Trojan Horse of a dark design."
The American Association of University Professors, representing 45,000 academic staff on 500 campuses, said that the charter could "impose administrative and legislative oversight on the professional judgment of faculty."