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Fighting the Faculty Thought Police By: Lisa Makson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Everyone knows that the America’s universities have become centers of political indoctrination, whose faculties regularly stomp on the academic freedom of their students. But few have bothered to do anything about it. Until now. Noindoctrination.org is a new website that gives students who "have experienced sociopolitical bias" in a college course a forum where they can comment on the professors who abuse them. The student postings run the gamut, from literature classes to science to politics.

"It's amazing that this course is listed as a writing course," a UCSD Warren College student writes. "It seemed more like a quarter-long discussion about the social construction of science … It was astonishing to me the number of people who could not write one complete and comprehensible sentence. Unfortunately, this ‘writing’ course didn't seem to help them … The class seemed more like a re-education program than a university writing course."

A University of Central Oklahoma student who was taking a "History of the U.S. to 1877," is fed up with hearing about the professor’s tirades over "Israeli mistreatment of ‘the Palestinians’" and his constant Bush-bashing instead of learning about U.S. history from the 17th through 19th centuries, that he wrote that he found the professor’s course "seriously objectionable."

Students who want to post something must give the course and professor’s name, the university’s catalog description and whether it is a required course. They also rate lecture, discussion and reading bias; as well as add comments on the coursework.

In addition to the student postings, the site also has a section on academic freedom that outlines the American Association of University Professors official stance on its pursuit.

"Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subjects, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject" and that "institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition," it states.

And since many students leaving postings are from the University of California system, the site also includes an excerpt from UC’s academic freedom statement, which says faculty who attempt "to convert" students "is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty."

But when a class is "to consider political, social or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined – not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of facts."

However, some professors must not have read it. A University of California at Santa Barbara student wrote that the professor in his "Introduction to Afro-American Literature" just "ignored" the student during class because "in her eyes I was an enemy, not a young student who had come there to learn and discuss and debate," the student said.

In addition to the student postings and section on academic freedom, the site also has a section devoted to faculty rebuttals. So far Bucknell University economics professor Dr. Geoffrey Schneider is the only professor to post a rebuttal.

A retired science teacher, Louann Wright, started the site. She is a soft-spoken woman who never imagined she would be embarking upon the path of an educational crusader.

"I care very much about education. I’ve been in it all my life. I’m not the sort of person who is drawn to this sort of thing -- I’m not one those agitating types of people -- but I care too much about our country’s future and our children and had to do something," Wright said.

It all started two years ago, when Wright’s son entered University of California at San Diego’s Warren College and he began complaining that the professors were "propagandizing" the students.

At first, Wright was incredulous and "tried to downplay" it.

"Every college student should expect to study controversial topics," she said. "After all, college is a time to explore ideas -- even from eccentric or bizarre perspectives."

Even after reading the essays for her son’s freshman writing class, which was designed by

Dr. Laura Brodkey, and was "dumbstruck by the blatant racism" where four of the five readings "echoed what one of the essayists calls the ‘ruinous pathology of whiteness,’" she gave the college the benefit of the doubt. "One off-the-wall course might not hurt anyone too much, I thought, hoping that universities were still places where open minds could flourish and discuss things from a diversity of reasoned perspectives," she said.

But since Brodkey was run out of the University of Texas after fifty-six faculty members objected to her plans to politicize the freshman writing program there a decade ago, according to the New York Times, it was not long before Wright changed her mind because Brodkey was doing that at Warren College.

So when her son encountered more of the same in his second semester "required writing course," that focused on the "economic and social ‘tyranny’ of American culture," Wright began researching other schools and programs across the country.

"I was shocked when I realized that this was not just an isolated incident," she said.

Upon discovering this "serious lack of diversity -- a diversity of viewpoints" in higher education, Wright began talking to students and alumni; she sent letters to regents and donors; she talked with a state senator about it. She even obtained documents under the California Public Records Act from Warren College and discovered that "many parents, students and faculty had complained about the bias for years."

But when she complained to administrators, she said "they all come back with the same excuse" -- academic freedom. They told her "there is nothing they can do because it would impinge upon the faculty’s "academic freedom," she said.

Frustrated and at her wit’s end, Wright had an epiphany -- why not use technology to give people a "little window" into what is actually going on in college classrooms? And Nonindoctrination.org was born.

"I created the website because I wanted to see some balance," and not this "group think," where students "cannot express themselves freely" because they are afraid of what it will do to their careers and because of the "hostility" they will get from professors and TA’s who attack them for thinking differently than they do.

"To abuse a required course for personal reasons," she said, "makes a mockery of education and dishonors the teaching profession … Too much attention is given to agendas, and not to the curriculum."

"It does not bode well for the future since they’re the ones who are teaching our teachers," she said, that the students "are given such a skewed view of things … This is our future -- our future ambassadors, our future moderators, our future politicians. Can we afford to continue educating them in this way, to have them only given one side?"

So this fall, once the site was up and running, Wright began a mail campaign to student groups all across the country -- to music clubs, Young Democrat clubs, conservative clubs, chess clubs, student newspapers, etc. -- informing them of the new site. And the postings began.

And so did the hate mail.

One California State University Professor of Ethnic and Women’s Studies e-mailed Wright, saying, "Your website captures the very definition of obscenity -- bad taste, perverted, shameful, harmful to children and without redeeming merit … If students are informed (and usually are by leftists) that the PERSPECTIVE on information they are receiving is by definition a product of the teacher's mind," the Cal State author continued, "students are intelligent enough to weigh various views. However, when there is a pretense of ‘objectivity,’ nearly always a lockstep, status quo OPINION is being propagated. I pity your poor son."

Another writer worried whether her "purpose" is "to preserve ‘academic freedom’ or to thwart it." Adding that her "website and its purpose is reminiscent of Nazi Germany … Does it cause you any concern at all that the present Washington administration may very well ‘patrol’ your website and question any professor named?"

Then came this suggestion from another correspondent: "If students don't like their course content, they can drop the course, complain to the administration, go to a different school, etc. etc. No one is forcing them to stay and be ‘indoctrinated’ … I suggest you close down this silly web site and do something more meaningful with your time. Pick up a copy of The Progressive and find out what the other half thinks, for example."

Wright said, "I hope this will open people’s eyes" and "is hoping that a little bit of transparency will change things" since, she said, the many people "have no clue" that it has "gotten to this point."

And although a recent Chronicle for Higher Education article made "it seem as if all these postings are bogus," Wright said, she carefully investigates the student’s critique by asking students for "corroborating material," such as book lists, handouts, syllabi, etc. and by contacting professors about the allegations.

"I want the professor to let me know if there’s something egregiously wrong" with the student’s account before she posts it, therefore avoiding any "bogus" claims and also encourages, which also will be posted.

Wright hopes word will spread amongst students, which in turn "will make [administrators and professors] responsible for what they teach."

"Talking about diversity is easy," she said. "Ensuring diversity of opinion is something else."

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