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Academic Freedom Fight Heats UP By: Dave Curtin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 01, 2003

      Denver Post

      Metro's bias fight escalates
      Faculty union, lawmaker, activist weigh in on campus politics
      By Dave Curtin
      Denver Post Higher Education Writer

      Wednesday, December 31, 2003 -
      A battle between Metropolitan State College faculty and a student claiming political bias in the classroom has inspired U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo,
      R-Colo., and conservative California activist David Horowitz to enter the
      fray. They say the incident is a perfect example of why the controversial
      "Academic Bill of Rights" is needed in Colorado.
      The document written by Horowitz is intended to protect students from
      political bias on campuses.
      The proposal gained sudden new life Tuesday when the recently formed Metro
      State Faculty Federation issued a fiery statement defending embattled
      political science professor Oneida Meranto.
      Student George Culpepper aired charges of political bias on Meranto's part
      at a Dec. 18 legislative hearing hosted by state Senate President John
      Andrews, R-Centennial, who is considering sponsoring some form of the
      Academic Bill of Rights in Colorado.
      In the sharply-worded letter to the school's president Tuesday, the
      faculty group takes to task Andrews, the hearing exploring political bias
      in college classrooms and especially Culpepper.
      "This incident demonstrates the absolute need for protection for students
      in Colorado," Horowitz said Tuesday. "Now you have the faculty union
      piling on the student and demanding an apology from him because his
      professor slandered him. The student has no right under this university
      system. You couldn't have a better demonstration of why students need to
      be defended from out-of-control faculty."
      Tancredo said he would like the U.S. Department of Education to
      investigate the incident.
      "It's apparent the faculty don't have enough to do," Tancredo said. "I'm
      sending a letter of inquiry to the Department of Education. I want them to
      aggressively pursue this and make sure the student's rights haven't been
      The firestorm began earlier this month when Culpepper, president of the
      Auraria Campus Republicans, testified at the Andrews hearing that he
      dropped Meranto's Latin American Politics class this fall because of what
      he perceived as harassment for his political views and because he didn't
      think he could get a fair grade.
      Meranto responded - at the request of The Denver Post - that Culpepper
      dropped the class because he hadn't done enough of the work and knew he
      wouldn't pass.
      Five days later, Culpepper threatened to file a formal complaint with the
      U.S. Department of Education if the school didn't fire Meranto, a tenured
      professor. Culpepper claimed she violated his privacy rights under the
      Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Repeated violations can affect
      a school's federal funding.
      "(Culpepper's) posturing is clearly being used to shore up hearings whose
      procedures were one-sided and specious, and whose actual findings were
      minimal," says the union letter addressed to Metro's interim president,
      Ray Kieft.
      "The recent hearings, for all their drive to legislate many points of view
      into our classrooms, actually uphold one and only one point of view: that
      which the sponsors of the hearings already know, without argument or
      evidence, to be the right one," the letter says.
      "It now appears that their real goal had little to do with the freedom of
      students to learn from exposure to many points of view. It has everything
      to do with the license of some students to disrupt and even destroy
      institutions of higher learning whose values and principles they do not
      respect or share."
      The faculty group said it expects a written apology from Culpepper for
      "reckless charges" and a letter of support from the Metro State
      The letter is signed by members of a steering committee for the faculty
      federation, which identifies itself as an affiliate of the Colorado
      Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers.
      "This faculty should take a look at their professional responsibilities
      which do not include getting involved in these spats," Tancredo said. "It
      shows how difficult it is for people who don't hold the faculty's point of
      view politically to express themselves. And it's not unique to Metro
      State. Instead of celebrating the fact you have a few students who are
      willing to express themselves - even though it goes against the political
      culture of the institution - they (faculty) are trying to stifle it."
      Meranto said she is being used for political means.
      "I don't know what Tancredo and Horowitz have to do with this," she said
      Tuesday. "I have not been charged with ideological repression. This is
      about my freedom of speech. They are really stretching it. It's very clear
      this is being orchestrated."
      Philosophy professor Tim Gould, the primary writer of the faculty letter,
      said Tancredo and Horowitz are ignoring the fact Culpepper has not used
      normal college procedures to air his complaints.
      "These professors are standing behind a professor who clearly violated the
      (privacy) law and that's completely inexcusable," Culpepper said. "They
      are the reason the Academic Bill of Rights needs to be addressed."

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