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Character Assassination on a Connecticut Campus By: Michael P. Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 06, 2003

If anyone doubts the need for an Academic Bill of Rights contact Professor Jay Bergman of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).

Recently, Bergman sent a letter, signed by over twenty people, to the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, noting the lack of intellectual diversity there. He cited several examples. One was a seminar about slavery reparations. According to Bergman it was an indoctrination session. "Not one of the presenters expressed the reasonable opinion, which students attending the seminar were entitled to hear, that reparations are a bad idea," Bergman wrote.

In addition to the reparations seminar, Bergman cited a Women’s Studies program that rarely invited speakers who differ with feminist doctrine. He noted, for example, the complete absence of campus speakers who are pro-life or against Affirmative Action.

Bergman is president of the Connecticut Association of Scholars, the state chapter of the National Association of Scholars (NAS) - an organization of professors devoted to eliminating tendentious scholarship in academia. He has an abiding interest in academic freedom. The fact that there were more than twenty other signatories to his letter indicates that this is a genuine problem for CCSU.

Bergman’s letter was reported by the Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer. In it Bergman opined that, "Unless students are exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints, they cannot exercise the freedom they need as students to evaluate critically what they are told by their instructors." This is a professed tenet of colleges, yet many of those cited in the letter apparently do not believe this to be true. The response to it was predictable.

Professors C. Charles Mate-Kole and Evelyn N. Phillips, who were the sponsors of the slavery reparations conference, accused Bergman of being a racist. They issued a statement saying, “The protests against reparations (are) on the same platform that produced apartheid, Hitler, and the KKK…Bergman and his colleagues' cloaked daggered (sic) statements suggest that blacks do not have the intellectual capacity to decide what is best for them and how injustices should be remedied. It is unfortunate that the blind rage of hatred against black skin holds so many minds captive both in academic gowns and pinstripe suits, as well as white hoods."[1]

Both Melissa Mentzer, director of the CCSU Women’s Studies programs, and Renee White, a sociology professor and board member of the African Studies program, accused Bergman of wanting their programs eliminated.

The Hartford Advocate, which also reported about the case, quoted Mentzer as saying that Bergman's criticisms of the Women’s Studies programs are “ not because he wants to create a dialogue...He wants to get rid of us, or make us over in his own image somehow." The same article quoted White asking, "We could've had the opposing view, but we didn't....Does that mean the conference was inappropriate?"  [2] 

During my phone interview, Bergman responded to White’s comment. “A conference is useful educationally to the extent that it includes diversity of opinion,” he said. However, it seems, that diversity of opinion is not useful to liberal college professors. The responses of Mate-Kole, who is the chairman of the African Studies program, and Phillips an Anthropology professor exemplify this.

Bergman's critics hardly spoke to the substance of his complaints. However, such shrill rhetoric is not uncommon among leftist professors these days.

Bergman responded to this invective by saying,  “I believe the African Studies and Woman’s Studies should be preserved. I do not want them eliminated. The individuals accusing me of racism do not even know me.”

Ironically, the Journal Inquirer reports that Dr. William Cibes, the president of the Connecticut Board of Governors for Higher Education responded, to Bergman’s letter by stating, “Professors should have the freedom ‘to express their views about their subject without any interference by the administration and outside parties’…That's really what academic freedom is…To begin to say there should be enforced diversity is to begin to interfere with academic freedom."

How ironic it is that a college administrator is concerned about “enforced diversity.” One wonders if such a concern is expressed when anti-Affirmative Action speakers such as Ward Connerly are prevented from speaking to college audiences.

Even more ironic is that the individuals accusing Bergman of being a bigot are self-anointed professional experts about bigotry. Despite any evidence, other than his criticism of their programs, they are eager to stigmatize Bergman as a racist. Obviously, this is a way of avoiding discussion of the issues and intimidating future critics. The question is why these academicians are so threatened by reasonable criticisms that they feel it is necessary to resort to these reprehensible smear tactics.


[1] http://studentsforacademicfreedom.org/archive/2003/ccsu061403.html

[2] ibid

A former police officer, Michael P. Tremoglie recently published his first novel, A Sense of Duty. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Human Events, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has a Master of Science degree from Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia.

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