Renowned conservative, author, critic and syndicated columnist David Horowitz, who is a leading a national campaign to remedy what he sees as liberally-slanted ideological imbalance in higher education institutions, caused a ruckus this fall when he came to Colorado and met with the state's GOP leaders.
Advocating his "Academic Bill of Rights," Horowitz met with Colorado Senate President John Andrews (R-Centennial) and Gov. Bill Owens while causing controversy across the state after his speech at Auraria campus on Sept. 30.
Talk of a kind of academic bill of rights being introduced in the 2004 legislative session by Andrews sparked a fierce debate on local college campuses. Many professors and students claimed the move was merely an attempt to suppress democratic speech and liberalism, while others hailed it as a needed move toward ending perceived discrimination against those with minority ideas and opinions.
Andrews, when considering whether to introduce such a bill in Colorado, has defended his proposal as a "fairness push, not a conservative push" to balance out academic ideology in the classroom.
While Horowitz opposes universities becoming "indoctrination centers for the political left," many claim an academic bill of rights in Colorado would merely be a thinly veiled disguise to avoid the issue of higher education funding.
Sergio Gonzales, tri-executive of the University of Colorado Student Union, told the CU Board of Regents this fall that students are against an academic bill of rights.
"(The bill) is an unnecessary impediment to academia," said Gonzales. "Diversity is needed on university campuses, but not along the lines of this bill."
CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard Byyny told the Colorado Daily that he had not read any proposed legislation yet, but had read a letter by Andrews published in the Silver and Gold Record defending his legislative proposal.
"I have no issue with working to inspire the full spectrum of ideas; that's what a university is all about," said Byyny.
Byyny added that political philosophy "is not a discussion" in the faculty hiring process. Besides, asking political affiliation in the hiring process is illegal. Regent Cindy Carlisle called the bill "Orwellian," adding that it is a legislative diversion from the real issues.
"(Andrews) is calling it academic freedom, when it's just the opposite," said Carlisle. "They're acting as 'thought police.'"
Andrews, in an interview with the Colorado Daily this fall, said the goal of the bill is to foster intellectual diversity and open debate and tolerance of all viewpoints, which he thinks people of all political persuasions can agree with.
"I have absolutely no doubt that when people understand that this bill is not about counting noses by party label, that they will support it," said Andrews.
After issuing a letter requesting all public college and university presidents send him information on how their respective campuses address academic diversity and bias, the Andrews held an ad-hoc committee meeting last week at the state's Capitol to hear accounts from several conservative students regarding their observations of unfair treatment on public campuses.
The issue remains a hot topic for most. Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, said Andrews' priorities were misguided.
"These proceedings do a disservice to the legislature by fostering a "witch hunt" of faculty who have no opportunity to defend themselves," she said regarding the meeting.
Former Colorado Daily Staff Writer Sarah-Jane Wilton also contributed to this story.