David Horowitz may have brought his academic freedom movement to California State University-Monterey Bay on May 4, but academic freedom itself has certainly not arrived at this publicly funded university; voter-circumvented experiment in affirmative action and social justice “education”. Security was thick at what seemed sure to be a rancorously protested event, especially in light of the volatility of the campus: the president of the College Republicans, for example, has received death threats for the sin of being a conservative.
But something else happened at his speech; almost no one came.
Indeed, there was a concerted boycott of Horowitz by faculty, staff, and students, as College Republican President Christy Cozby suggested in Adam Joseph’s article in the student newspaper, the Otter Realm. Horowitz’s reception stands in stark contrast to the overflowing crowds who cheered Ward Churchill’s every word the previous year. Students were given credit to attend, and many had to be turned away.
Where were the faculty and students? Perhaps they were at that evening’s Semana de la Raza (Week of the Race) event sponsored by the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán, MEChA); the same event for which Churchill gave the keynote lecture last year. An open microphone session was organized to protest Horowitz at another venue, rather than engaging with Horowitz and his arguments directly.
Adam Joseph reported in an earlier article in the Otter Realm that the Associated Students had attempted to block funding of Horowitz’s fee, based on the claim that Horowitz – a lifelong civil rights activist – was a “racist,” a sentiment echoed at the open mic protest. Governed by its leftist “Vision Statement only the hard work of the College Republicans and the lobbying efforts of Kimber Solana secured student government funding to bring David Horowitz to campus as the first conservative guest speaker in CSUMB’s history.
When Ward Churchill spoke at CSUMB last year, in part on the “Limits of Academic Dissent,” he made a number of claims about Horowitz and the academic freedom movement that should have tried the most credulous. The College Republicans booked Horowitz to provide a different point of view on academic freedom and other contemporary issues.
The event was attended by some of the few conservative students at CSUMB plus a contingent of conservative students from UC-Santa Cruz and the surrounding communities. Only a handful of apparently open-minded liberal students attended. One, solitary faculty member attended the lecture: Rob Weisskirch, a commendably liberal  Liberal Studies professor who served once as the faculty sponsor for the College Republicans. Laudably, Professor Cecilia O’Leary offered students in her California history course extra credit to attend and write a reflection paper on Horowitz’s lecture, if only to “understand the conservative agenda.” (That Horowitz’s academic freedom movement is actually a classically liberal agenda is lost on leftists.)
In posts to CSUMB’s open e-mail forum after the lecture, Weisskirch challenged Horowitz’s statement regarding the College Republican’s inability to find a faculty member to sponsor their club. Unfortunately, he went on to claim that he had been “ousted” by the College Republicans, a blatant mischaracterization for which he was reprimanded by the CR president. The CR students were simply interested in having a faculty advisor with similar political views. Weisskirch also contended that Horowitz was not the first conservative to speak at CSUMB, because the former president, Peter Smith, was a Republican. To my knowledge, Smith never spoke on conservative themes and was apparently only nominally Republican: no true conservative would have presided over the establishment of this “university’s codified leftist educational mission.
If posts to the campus open e-mail forum leading up to Horowitz’s lecture are any indication, that leftist establishment condemned Horowitz in no uncertain terms. Faculty actively mischaracterized the academic freedom movement and encouraged students not to attend, as opposed to the way they rally the troops to show up for Leftist events.
Global Studies lecturer Julie Shackford-Bradley posted an inane, Orwellian misrepresentation of the academic freedom movement:
David Horowitz has written a book that labels professors who promote peace studies and teach Habermas as “dangerous” to our society and country. This is not an “opinion,” it is a call for these faculty to be targeted and perhaps fired.
If that is an advocation of “free speech,” then war is peace, love is hate, Fox News is fair and balanced, and this is 1984.
Free speech doesn't mean that only your views can be expressed and others should be silenced.
Don't be afraid to think critically!
Arthur Simons sent out an article Leslie Rose posted on the Revolutionary Communist Party USA website, “David Horowitz: Battering Ram for Bush Regime,” (without attribution, no less). One discerning student pointed out the tendentiousness of the source. When a student suggested, “Hey folks, let's go to this and drill this guy,” Simons then attempted to persuade students to boycott the event altogether:
This is precisely why he's coming. Horowitz thrives on this kind of attention.
If you want to hurt him, ignore him.
Don't go to the lecture, don't protest, don't counter-protest.
Just find something else to do that night.
The top suggestion on the open forum for an alternative happening was that evening’s Semana de La Raza event.
Evidently, the revolutionary vanguard has achieved a Gramscian counter-hegemony over academia but remains paranoid enough to need to maintain its power through denial and vigorous misrepresentation of the Left as the minority and victims of conservatives on American campuses. Or perhaps it’s simply much easier to indoctrinate students in an environment where the only competition of ideas amounts to who can demonstrate themselves to be the most radical. Some faculty members here are indeed arrogant enough to assert that their fringe political beliefs are coterminous or isomorphic with intellectualism and scholarship in general, as the title of last year’s Human Communications Department Capstone (senior project) Festival clearly indicates: “Understanding Inspires Revolution.” No bias there!
Last fall I posted my FrontPage Magazine articles about CSUMB and Ward Churchill on CSUMB’s open e-mail forum. Proud leftist students applauded the orientation of the university. Others tried to deny its bias and defended CSUMB as offering an evolved pedagogy for our times. At a university where Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is taught as the gold standard of American history, it was disconcerting to see that students there are incapable of understanding the political bias of the university. As leftists are wont to note, power works best when it goes unnoticed.
I received some supportive notes, mostly private but some posted publicly to the open forum. Some encouraging notes were from folks I do not know, including parents of students, while others were from people who know me or had taken classes from me. Mostly, I was condemned, even threatened. As MEChista and Otter Realm staff reporter Annette Partida warned, “Stay far away from CSUMB; Stop talking about CSUMB; Stop writing about CSUMB.”
It was my aim to generate discussion and public scrutiny, and I achieved this to a degree. Forensic by nature, I enjoyed the heated exchanges with students and felt that exercise went to the heart of the educational enterprise or, at least, provided students with a rare alternative viewpoint.
The student newspaper picked up the story and Adam Joseph wrote an impressively fair article, “Adjunct Lecturer Gets Pissed.” A “Jodes,” who I hope was only a young undergraduate, wrote a letter to the editor arguing, ultimately, that my articles illustrate that I am essentially “ignorant,” “inexperienced” and “insecure with my own ethnic identity.” Meanwhile, “Partida” called for the establishment of a new campus publication pointing out Joseph’s article as an example of biased reporting at the Otter Realm.
A student’s post to CSUMB’s open forum concerning Horowitz contained an epigraph in her signature line that illustrates the vulgar immaturity and unsophisticated conceit of today’s average college student, “My bush would make a better president.”
What impresses me about this letter, the various puerile attacks students posted to the open forum, and ultimately the boycott of David Horowitz, is the utterly sophomoric tone of these attacks: callow denunciations stemming from youthful arrogance, encouraged and seconded by the faculty. Students are propped up with praise, taught to embrace their “personal truths,” as the winner of this year’s CSU Michael Moore Scholarship declared; to think of themselves as “citizen historians” after a single history course and made overconfident in their naïveté and ignorance. Students are shielded from the brutal reality of all that they do not know while their mistakes go unchecked; no red pens here. Students are not taught of the essential contestability of political ideas but rather to apply absolute censure to conservative and even centrist thought. As Dr. David Yeagley and others have noted, anti-authoritarianism and immature conceit are key to the destructive potential of an incipient revolutionary class. No wonder the Left loves young college students.
This is, of course, the attitude held by law students at Georgetown who turned their backs on Attorney General Gonzales, as well as the students at Boston College and the New School who jeered and turned their backs on Secretary Rice and Senator McCain during their commencement speeches. Such illiberal, anti-intellectual behavior should be an embarrassment and source of shame to the American academy, but it is not.
Philip Laverty is a Ph.D. Candidate, ABD, in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. His dissertation addresses issues of federal acknowledgment among California Indian peoples. Mr. Laverty taught at CSUMB until his contract was not renewed.
1. I use the term “liberal” in the classical sense, rather than the current Leftist abomination of the term. Many conservatives in America are today the guardians of democratic liberalism—a concept long derided by Marxists. I’m sure Miss Coulter understands this and writes in terms of the current parlance. As an aside, one only needs to look to Nietzsche and, if one needs, Bloom’s exegesis of his point, to understand that secularism and liberalism are mutually reinforcing “religions.”