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A State Senator Makes the Case for Academic Freedom By: Mark Hillman
ColoradoSenate.com | Thursday, March 04, 2004


Ian Van Buskirk, a student at the University of Colorado, was returning to his seat after telling a House committee about his experiences with leftwing professors who try to silence and intimidate students with dissenting viewpoints.

“I represent students who have been told (by their professor), ‘This is my classroom. I’ve got my Ph.D., therefore I decide what views are appropriate. I do not want your rightwing views in my class,’” Van Buskirk had testified.

Liberal politicians and the allies in academia were circling the wagons, denying that viewpoint discrimination exists, when one of their own betrayed the cause.

As reported in various media accounts, Van Buskirk was nearing his seat when he was intercepted by Tim Gould, a philosophy professor at Metro State. Their nose-to-nose confrontation culminated classically in a crowded committee chamber with this retort from the professor: “I got my Ph.D. at Harvard. I’ll see your (expletive) in court. Then we’ll see a chilling affect.”

Gould’s soul-baring outburst should have ended the charade by academic elites who deny that anyone of their enlightened stature would seek to censor or intimidate a student in their charge. Yet, amazingly, the bill to provide modest relief to this problem cleared committee on a partyline vote with six Republicans voting for and five Democrats against.

Anyone with an ounce of objectivity will recognize that a professor who will accost and threaten a student in front of hundreds of witnesses will be far more aggressive in the security of his own academic fiefdom, where he controls the student’s grade which shapes the student’s career opportunities.

So, how does a dissenting, free-thinking student, who isn’t willing to simply regurgitate a professor’s jaundiced lectures, find relief? Currently, by filing a grievance or appeal which will be heard, not by an unbiased observer, but by a faculty or administrative panel dominated by more refugees from the make-love-not-war crowd.

Van Buskirk’s experience is hardly isolated:

-- Danielle Robinson, a former ROTC student at Metro State, testified that a philosophy instructor had referred to the military as “baby killers.”

-- Michelle Schmidt said professors at CU told her she should be “taken out and lynched” for her views as a religious conservative.

The head-in-the-sand response by liberal lawmakers -- “these are just anecdotal complaints, there’s no data to show this is widespread, so there really isn’t a problem” -- is baffling and hypocritical.

When confronted with those same arguments opposing legislation to address racial profiling by law enforcement, liberals argued for data collection in order to reveal whether a problem existed.

Rep. Shawn Mitchell set very modest objectives in crafting this bill: requiring only that each college adopt and publicize grievance procedures so that students know that their grades won’t be diminished simply because they hold different political or religious views than their professors.

Mitchell’s bill doesn’t begin to address campus censorship which occurs outside the classroom, such as the CU administration’s threat to silence campus demonstrations by conservatives.

The irony of liberals’ opposition to free speech and expression hasn’t escaped Tammy Bruce, a lesbian and former chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization of Women. In her outstanding book, The New Thought Police, Bruce writes, “The Left implements speech and mind control because they know they cannot truly persuade on the issues; silencing the opposition becomes their only recourse.”

It’s incredible for liberals to expound the virtues of a diverse student population and then limit that diversity to external factors -- skin color and gender -- when education necessarily demands diversity of viewpoint.


State Sen. Mark Hillman (R-Burlington) is the Senate Majority Leader. His e-mail address is mail@markhillman.com.


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