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Discounting the Facts By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 15, 2006


On May 9, 2006, a group calling itself the coalition for Free Exchange on Campus released a 50-page "report" on David Horowitz’s book, The Professors titled "Facts Count." As described by InsideHighered.com, "In ‘Facts Count,’ the debunking document being released today, Horowitz’s book is slammed as ‘sloppy in the extreme.’ The analysis also says that the details included in the book suggest that Horowitz is not concerned with the students he says he is trying to protect, but is actually trying to punish professors whose views he doesn’t like."

If the authors of "Facts Count" are to be believed, they represent a group of disinterested observers whose only concern is to defend the marketplace of ideas. In their own words, their mission is "advocating for the rights of students and faculty to hear and express a full range of ideas unencumbered by political or ideological interference." But this self-serving boilerplate is not supported by the facts.

Free Exchange is an organization created and financed by professorial unions solely to oppose the efforts of one individual, David Horowitz, and his campaign to have universities adopt an "Academic Bill of Rights" and to denounce his book, The Professors.

The groups comprising the Free Exchange coalition are chiefly distinguished by their partisan commitment to left-wing political causes and their support for the politicized and one-sided academic status quo documented and critiqued in The Professors. Campus Progress, for example, which is the primary "student" organization belonging to the Free Exchange coalition, is the ideological subsidiary of a Democratic brain trust, the Center for American progress, headed by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. Like the Center, Campus Progress and funded by George Soros and other billionaire activists. Campus Progress is itself headed by David Halperin whose father, Morton Halperin, is the "Director of U.S. Advocacy" for Soros’s main base of operation, the Open Society Institute. Far from being a public interest operation, Campus Progress’ declared aim is to "strengthen progressive voices on college and university campuses nationwide" and "empower new generations of progressive leaders."

Another Free Exchange member, the Center for Campus Free Speech, is a scarcely concealed front for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), a network of left-wing student groups committed to advancing the agendas of its founder, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Together with the pro-Castro United States Student Association, a member of both Free Exchange and the radical anti-war coalition United for Peace and Justice, these partisan student groups would naturally regard a book like The Professors, which examines the abuses of political activists masquerading as academics, as a threat to their common agenda: recruiting students into the left-wing political fold. This is a goal they share with many of the tenured radicals profiled in the book.

Even more central to the coalition are its union members, in particular the American Federation of Teachers, two of whose operatives are listed as contacts for press inquiries about "Facts Count." Joining the AFT is the American Association of University Professors, which has taken a leading role in opposing the academic freedom campaign launched by Horowitz by distorting its mission, and in organizing protests against Horowitz’s "Academic Bill of Rights." Other members of the Free Exchange Coalition include such leftwing organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way.

With this partisan pedigree, it should surprise no one to discover that the Free Exchange report, "Facts Count" is a tendentious document that misrepresents and distorts the arguments of The Professors in order to attack the book and its author, and is not above fabricating evidence to make its case. Time and again the report insists that The Professors cites no evidence for a given claim when even a cursory reading of the text and its sources would confirm the opposite. Time and again, the report rebuts arguments that appear nowhere in The Professors, but are the inventions of the Free Exchange authors themselves. The overall impression created by these methods is that either these authors have not read the book or else they are unwilling honestly to engage with its arguments.

Every now and then, to be sure, the Free Exchange authors identify an actual error -- hardly surprising in a text of 112,000 words dealing with 101 different individuals. On examination, however, these errors turn out to be trivial and in no way affect the substantive arguments of the book or the conclusions drawn in the individual profiles of the professors included.

Much of the Free Exchange report is based on grievances voiced by these same professors, whose charges against the book the Free Exchange authors accept uncritically. Every one of these charges is answered in the present response. Some of the individuals, like Richard Falk, Larry Estrada, and Gordon Fellman misrepresent their past statements and writings. Others, like Matthew Evangelista, Mari Matsuda and Elizabeth Brumfiel offer disingenuous accounts of their past (and ongoing) role in the continued politicization of American universities. Two professors, Marc Becker and Sam Richards, even attempt to disguise their expressed support for politics in the classroom by posing as champions of intellectual diversity and – in Becker’s case – non-ideological teaching. Not one of the professors mentioned in the Free Exchange report appears willing to openly defend the partisan politics and political extremism that flourish in the university curriculum or to frankly acknowledge their role in promoting these developments. This bad faith permeates the report "Facts Count" and renders its title ironic indeed.

In their executive summary the authors of "Facts Count" claim that The Professors is "characterized by inaccuracies, distortions, and manipulations of fact—including false statements, mischaracterizations of professors’ views, broad claims unsupported by facts and selective omissions of information that does not fit his argument." This turns out to be a fair description of their own report. Facts do count -- but evidently not for the Free Exchange authors or the professors they are determined, in the face of all evidence, to defend.

In all, the "critique" contained in the report "Facts Count" is ethically disturbing and intellectually vapid, and should be an embarrassment to all concerned in its construction.

What follows is a point-by-point refutation of the report that justifies this judgment.

Executive Summary:

1. "Mr. Horowitz's book condemns professors for actions that are entirely within their rights and entirely appropriate in an atmosphere that promotes the free exchange of ideas. Mr. Horowitz chiefly condemns professors for expressing their personal political views outside of the classroom. He provides scant evidence of professors' in-class behavior and fails to substantiate his charge that the professors in his book indoctrinate their students. What in-class evidence he does provide largely demonstrates nothing other than that the professors in his book emphasize critical, minority, or historically underrepresented viewpoints in their teaching."

Like many other claims in "Facts Count," this accusation is without basis. The Professors is formally divided into two sections – a 15,000 word analysis which explains the contents of the study, and then the study itself which consists of one hundred formal profiles of professors (Another profile, that of Ward Churchill, is contained in the introduction.) The publisher has split this analysis into three chapters book-ending the profiles. In the introduction, the author explains that his book is about the systemic "intellectual corruption" of the university and that the sample profiles represent a much larger cohort of professors who confuse political activism with academic scholarship.

The author identifies four conclusions that can be drawn from his study of the individual professors profiled. These conclusions are stated in the Introduction, which the authors evidently have not read or – more likely – have not understood. None of them refers to the "personal political views" of the professors involved, whether these views are expressed inside the classroom or out:

"When viewed as a whole, the hundred or more portraits in this volume reveal several disturbing patterns of university life, which are reflected career’s like Ward Churchill’s, but are neither limited to him or his specific university or his particular academic discipline. These include (1) promotion far beyond academic achievement (Professors Anderson, Aptheker, Berry, Churchill, Davis, Kirstein, Navarro, West, Williams and others in this volume); (2) teaching subjects outside one’s professional qualifications and expertise for the purpose of political propaganda (Professors Barash, Becker, Churchill, Ensalaco, Furr, Holstun, Wolfe and many others); (3) making racist and ethnically disparaging remarks in public without eliciting reaction by university administrations, as long as those remarks are directed at unprotected groups, e.g., Armenians, whites, Christians and Jews (Professors Algar, Armitage, Baraka, Dabashi, hooks, Massad and others); (4) the overt introduction of political agendas into the classroom and the abandonment of any pretense of academic discipline or scholarly inquiry (Professors Aptheker, Dunkley, Eckstein, Gilbert, Higgins, Marable, Richards, Williams and many others)." [1]

In other words, The Professors does not "condemn" anyone for actions that express a point of view or ideas that do the same. It is a collective profile of a 101 professors designed to show a systemic corruption in the university – promotions without merit, teaching outside a professor’s expertise, conflating political activism with scholarship, and ethnic bigotry. The objection raised by the authors of "Facts Count" – the very first in their "Executive Summary" is based on a distortion of the contents of The Professors and is designed to evade the argument the book makes by substituting another it does not.

The Free Exchange claim that The Professors condemns minority viewpoints is without foundation. The in-class evidence provided in The Professors concerns sectarian approaches to subjects and does not in the least implicate views that are "critical, minority, or historically under-represented" on the premise that such views are illegitimate. The author of The Professors is also the author of the Academic Bill of Rights whose explicit goal just the opposite: to foster "intellectual diversity," in other words the promotion of views that are critical, minority and/or historically under-represented.

2. "Mr. Horowitz chiefly condemns professors for expressing their personal political views outside of the classroom."

This is false. The Professors in fact says exactly the opposite, and in so many words: "This book is not intended as a text about leftwing bias in the university and does not propose that a leftwing perspective on academic faculties is a problem in itself. Every individual, whether conservative or liberal, has a perspective and therefore a bias. Professors have every right to interpret the subjects they teach according to their individual points of view. That is the essence of academic freedom." [2] Since these sentences appear in the introduction to the text and have been repeated by the author many times since publication, it is clear that this is not an honest error but a calculated distortion of the intentions of both author and book.

The second claim – that the book provides "scant evidence of professors in-class behavior" -- is easily explained. The book makes almost no claims about the in-class discourse of the particular professors profiled -- which is why it provides "scant evidence" of such discourse.

The Professors is critical of programs of indoctrination which have become institutionalized in university departments like Women’s Studies. When academic programs define their mission as "social justice" or as the training of students in feminist doctrines, they are violating professional academic standards and academic freedom guidelines. If a course is described as instilling feminist doctrines rather than conducting an academic – and therefore skeptical – review of feminist doctrines, it is not necessary to sit in the class to understand that this is a course in indoctrination. If the sole text for a course is an extreme and sectarian text like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, an in-class examination of the professor’s lectures is also superfluous. If the syllabus for the course lays out a clear program of indoctrination in a particular world-view, it is unnecessary to analyze the professor’s explication of the syllabus in order to draw the conclusion that something is wrong.

Course descriptions, text assignments and syllabi notwithstanding, The Professors makes no claims about how individual professors teach their courses except in instances where the professors themselves acknowledge their agenda as one of indoctrination. For example Dr. Sam Richards, a lecturer in sociology at Penn State prefaces his lecture notes with the following statement: "It is not possible to keep our ideologies out of the classroom or any other place where ideas are shared. SO I’M OPEN ABOUT BRINGING MY IDEOLOGY INTO THIS CLASSROOM BECAUSE I SEE THAT ALL EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS ARE IDEOLOGICAL TO THE CORE." [3] [emphasis in original] This is a frank admission that Dr. Richards’ agenda is to indoctrinate students, not educate them. Other professors, like Eric Foner of Columbia, make claims that political activism is integral to their scholarship: "scholarship and activism are not mutually exclusive pursuits, but are, at their best, symbiotically related." Is it necessary after a pronouncement like this to audit one of Foner’s classes to know that his scholarship is corrupted by political agendas?

Since in-class comments are not the exclusive subject of The Professors, and since there is no claim made in the book about a professor’s in-class discourse that is not based on statements by the individual professors about their in-class discourse (or in three cases by students who have taken the course), there is no need for the kind of evidence the authors of the report claim is missing. This criticism amounts to the invention of an argument the book does not make and then a complaint that no evidence is produced to substantiate the argument which was not made in the first place.

3. In our view, Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions are based on faulty premises. Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions are based on the premises that America’s colleges and universities are failing to ensure students’ academic freedom, and that students lack the critical thinking skills they need to engage with controversial ideas and decide what they believe for themselves. We believe both premises are false.

The first premise can indeed be found in The Professors, where it is substantiated with numerous examples of professors who abuse their positions and, through tendentious curriculums and one-sided text assignments, inject transparently political agendas into the classroom in defiance of academic freedom guidelines. The second premise is made up by Free Exchange. The Professors makes no assumptions about students’ "critical thinking skills." Violating academic standards and flouting the principles of academic freedom would be wrong regardless of how adept students are in engaging controversial ideas. Despite the impression given by Free Exchange, moreover, the book specifically calls for an engagement with "controversial" ideas. In contrast to the Free Exchange authors, however, it distinguishes between teaching about controversial ideas in a neutral manner appropriate to a university and having the professor "urge them as commitments" after the fashion of a political activist – which is an abuse of academic standards far too common as the evidence adduced in The Professors demonstrates.

4. "There are other troubling aspects of Mr. Horowitz’s book. For example, in our view, the tone and format of The Professors strongly evokes a blacklist. While Mr. Horowitz does not call for the professors in his book to be fired, he does list them by their full names and places of business, he does condemn them for their political beliefs, he does (as this report will show) distort evidence in the service of leveling unsubstantiated allegations, and he does exclude any opposing points of view—all as part of a well-publicized and well-funded media campaign. In tactics we found to be eerily reminiscent of a bygone era, Mr. Horowitz’s book also speaks approvingly of students who started a "Watch List," condemns professors for their associations with political organizations, and issues an apologia for Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The tone of The Professors is actually quite academic and dispassionate, hardly the evocation of a "blacklist." No example is given of the tone the authors detect – and for good reason. How the "format" of this book could evoke a blacklist is beyond comprehension. If this were indeed the case, then every biographical dictionary or attempt to assemble individuals by category would "evoke a blacklist." The Professors is not a blacklist of any kind and the attempt to link its amply documented and non-political assertions to the demagoguery of Senator McCarthy indicates a certain desperation on the part of the authors and ulterior agendas they refuse to state. This is the kind of ominous innuendo, in fact, that the authors claim to deplore.

It is somewhat disingenuous for the authors of this report to portray The Professors as part of a "well-funded media campaign." Free Exchange, after all, enjoys the backing of some of the most moneyed interests on the American political landscape, including the American Federation of Teachers (net assets: $65 million); the ACLU ($60 million); People for the American Way ($21 million); the American Association of University Professors ($5 million); and Campus Progress ($1.25 million). If being "well-funded" makes one’s conclusions suspect, the authors of "Facts Count" cannot escape scrutiny.

5. "Getting a handle on Mr. Horowitz’s definition of ‘indoctrination’ is difficult, since he defines it in a number of ways throughout his book. ‘In the strictest lexigraphical sense,’ he writes in the introduction, indoctrination means ‘to imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view.’ Elsewhere in his book, he portrays it as when professors ‘impose their biases on students as if they were scientific fact;’ ‘use the authority of the classroom to force students to adopt their positions;’ or engage in ‘the arbitrary imposition of personal opinions and prejudices on students, enforced through the power of the grading process and the authority of the institutions they represent.’"

There is no inconsistency in these examples. Each accurately describes indoctrination.

6. "Not once in Mr. Horowitz’s book do we see proof that a single professor teaches his or her own political views to the exclusion of all others, and nowhere does Mr. Horowitz provide a single example of a student whose grade was lowered because of his or her political beliefs.

In fact, the book includes many examples of professors who teach their courses that are merely explications of their own political views, while making no effort to inform their students that there are other valid scholarly perspectives. Examples would include most professors of "Peace Studies" (David Barash, Harry Targ, George Wolfe) as well as those with a declared commitment to promoting "social change" (e.g., Melissa Gilbert, Dana Cloud). In the introduction, David Horowitz also points to the notorious case, by no means isolated, of a University of California lecturer named Snehal Shingavi who turned his section of a freshman writing course into a propaganda exercise called "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance" and discouraged "conservative thinkers" from enrolling.

Equally untrue is the claim that The Professors provides no examples of students who were penalized with lowered grades for their political views. The profile of Professor Robert Dunkley of the University of Northern Colorado recounts a failing grade he awarded a student who answered a final exam question in a manner that was politically incorrect. The grade was changed on appeal. Still another case is provided in the profile of Professor George Wolfe of Ball State University who, according to a former student, Brett Mock, lowered or elevated his grades based on whether he agreed or disagreed with Wolfe’s dogmatic certitudes.

That the authors prefer to deny the existence of such examples presents two possibilities, neither encouraging for the credibility of their study. Either they have not taken the time thoroughly to read the book and are therefore unfamiliar with its arguments; or else they would rather misrepresent its content rather than challenge it on its merits. Neither provides any reason to think that their report should be taken seriously.

7. "Indeed, for a book that is ostensibly about students’ rights, student voices are pointedly absent. Our analysis finds that student testimonials are absent from 87 of the 100 profiles (not 101, as the title and chapter heading indicate) in Mr. Horowitz’s book."

This complaint evidences yet again the authors’ inclination to set up straw men rather than engage the arguments the book actually makes. The Professors is not about "students’ rights." It is about the widespread corruption of professional standards in the university. The introduction of "student voices" helps to bolster this theme, but is by no means essential to it. Further, The Professors actually contains 102 profiles not 100 as the Free Exchange critics claim. The profiles of Ward Churchill and Cornel West are more thorough than the 100 listed in alphabetical order, but they are to be found in chapters one and three, which the critics evidently did not read or – more likely – did not understand. The figures are meaningless in any case, since The Professors argues that there are tens of thousands of professors who fit the pattern that emerges from the collected profiles in the book.

8. "Overall, the majority of the profiles in Mr. Horowitz’s book contain no evidence of professors’ in-class conduct whatsoever. As an analysis by Media Matters shows, 52 of the 100 profiles in Mr. Horowitz’s book are based exclusively on things professors have said or written outside of their classrooms. Our own count of Mr. Horowitz’s footnotes reveals that overall, approximately 80 percent of the evidence he presents relates to things professors have said or written outside of the classroom."

Media Matters is a self-described "progressive" organization that routinely attacks conservatives, including David Horowitz, and misrepresents their ideas, treating differences of opinion as differences of fact. But even if the findings are accurate, they undermine their own critique, since they concede that nearly half the professors do in fact use their classrooms for political agendas. As previously indicated, moreover, The Professors is not merely about in-classroom indoctrination, nor is it always about individual styles of teaching. A professor in the Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz is indoctrinating students as a part of her departmental responsibility quite apart from any individual commitment she may have to using the classroom for political agendas. To repeat: The Professors makes four distinct critiques, two of which focus on in-class conduct and two of which do not. In other words, half the critique is about activities that violate academic standards that are not confined to in-class presentations. These include the promotion of professors beyond their qualifications and the teaching of courses beyond their expertise. Professor Hamid Algar, to take another example, told Armenian students at the University of California, Berkeley, "You deserve to be massacred." [4] This happened on campus but not in the classroom. Researchers who cannot detect these nuances can hardly be trusted to know whether 80 percent of the evidence presented in The Professors relates to one thing or another.

9. "To the extent that Mr. Horowitz cites anything at all about what goes on in the classrooms of the professors he profiles, his evidence usually amounts to materials that can be found on the internet, such as syllabi or short course descriptions—not accounts from people who have taken courses with the professors, or who have sat in on their lectures, or who have participated in class discussions. In short, eyewitness accounts of any kind are altogether absent from the overwhelming majority of the profiles in Mr. Horowitz’s book."

This is another tendentious claim. If The Professors quoted students, the Free Exchange critics would say students have axes to grind and their reports are unreliable. In fact, that is what professors like George Wolfe, who are cited in the Free Exchange report, actually do claim. Given that syllabi present an objective guide to the content of courses it is odd that the authors, who elsewhere complain about the book’s subjective judgments, should object to their use as evidence.

10. Furthermore, most of the syllabi, course descriptions and the few other teaching materials that Mr. Horowitz does present tend to show nothing other than that the professors teach what they claim to teach: courses in fields that Mr. Horowitz categorizes as "ideological," such as ethnic studies, feminism, or peace studies; viewpoints that represent the perspectives of minority, oppressed, or historically underrepresented groups; or perspectives that are critical of certain policies of the United States government.

This claim is misleading in the extreme. In the first place, the problem with these assorted disciplines is not merely that they are "ideological" in nature but that they are typically marked by a one-sided political agenda and taught by committed activists rather than scholars for whom skepticism and intellectual balance are cardinal virtues. Insofar as many of these fields are overwhelmingly critical of American foreign policy, the American military, and free-market economics, it is an understatement to describe these fields as merely "critical of certain policies of the United States government." Further, the proliferation of these pseudo-academic fields buttresses one of the central critiques of The Professors, specifically that universities have made a "dramatic departure from the academic interests of the past, providing institutional settings for political indoctrination: the exposition and development of radical theory, the education and training of radical cadre, and the recruitment of students to radical causes." [5]

11. In our view, Mr. Horowitz’s book strongly suggests that emphasizing alternative perspectives, discussing peace movements, or presenting perspectives critical of certain policies of the United States government are grounds for inclusion on his list of the one hundred and one most dangerous academics in America.

Not only does the book make no such suggestion but it advocates the exact opposite: a greater inclusion of different intellectual perspectives. By contrast, the fields critiqued in the book are distinguished by their undisguised hostility to opposing views, their preference for political attitudinizing over objective scholarship, and their one-sided political agendas, which include an aggressive antagonism towards the United States as a society – and not just to specific policies.

12. Our analysis shows that throughout his book, Mr. Horowitz manipulates facts to make them fit his arguments. The pages that follow detail dozens of the inaccuracies that characterize Mr. Horowitz’s research. As readers can see for themselves, Mr. Horowitz: Misstates professors’ intended meanings. For example, Mr. Horowitz bases this claim: "Professor Ensalaco regards the United States as responsible for the 9/11 attacks on itself," on this quote: "I’d like our students to understand the historical context of the attitudes that caused the attacks. If the students understand the complexities involved, perhaps they’ll avoid the conception that all people of Islam or all Arabs are terrorists."

We shall see in a moment whether the general claims made here are valid, and whether there are "dozens of inaccuracies" in the text. As to the claim about Ensalaco, his comment about 911 could seem unobjectionable, and had it been the sole basis for his inclusion in the book the authors would have a strong case that Horowitz "misstates professors’ intended meanings," or rather, misstated one professor’s intended meaning. However, Ensalaco’s 9/11 comments were but one piece of evidence in a more detailed profile that also underscored the fact that Professor Ensalaco teaches a course on Western imperialism despite lacking academic qualifications; propagates unfounded claims about America’s collusion with Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaigns; and assigns polemical screeds in lieu of scholarly textbooks, which liken Osama bin Laden to American abolitionists. [6] Examined against this background, the inference that Professor Ensalaco intended to blame the United States for the attacks of 9-11 was scarcely illogical.

13. Omits important facts that counter his arguments. For example, Mr. Horowitz states that Professor Sam Richards’ class lessons "are reinforced with ‘out-of-class’ assignments that include the viewing of left-wing propaganda films." Mr. Horowitz fails to mention that Professor Richards’ students also receive credit for attending conservative events, including a speech by Mr. Horowitz himself.

David Horowitz replies: "It’s admirable of Sam Richards to give credit to students who attend events with conservative visitors to campus. But a film is quite different from a speech in that it is a construction of reality which represents itself as something more than the opinions of one individual. Moreover, the assigning of propaganda films is itself inappropriate unless they are analyzed as propaganda. Since Richards does not teach a course in propaganda, and since the propaganda films he assigns reinforce his ideological perspective, it is unlikely that the purpose of assigning such films is anything but indoctrination."

14. Takes quotes wildly out of context and mischaracterizes their meaning. For example, Mr. Horowitz states that "Professor [Michael] Bérubé described the university as ‘the final resting place of the New Left,’ and the ‘progressives’ only bulwark against the New Right.’"18 In fact, these quotes are lifted from a sentence in which Professor Bérubé lists 11 ways that authors other than himself have described the modern university. Mr. Horowitz selects two and omits the other nine—including descriptions of the university as "the research wing of the corporate economy" and "the conservatives’ strongest bastion of antifeminist education."

There is a little truth and a great deal of falsehood in this charge. It is true that Professor Berube does not claim the quoted statements as his own. But the idea that their attribution to him is "wildly out of context and mischaracterizes his meaning" is wildly inaccurate. In the same article, Berube chides an author for failing to see the "pedagogical/political character of the contemporary curriculum." [7] Elsewhere he says that "it is unequivocally wrong to create an [academic] environment in which feminism … is devalued." [8] Finally he says that a university must be a place where "dissensus remains not only thinkable but practicable." [9] He borrows the term dissensus from Bill Readings, who describes dissensus as special attention by scholars to the "heteronomous instance of the Other." In other words, Berube clearly subscribes to the "progressive" idea that the university should be a place where scholarship and political activism are combined rather than sequestered, which is the prevailing conviction in modern universities and a legacy of their conquest by the New Left. Professor Berube has previously been held to task for his attitude towards in class activism by Stanley Fish, a noted liberal academic, in Fish’s polemic against ideology in the classroom, Professional Correctness.

15. Mr. Horowitz makes his cases against individual professors within the context of a larger argument about the representative nature of the professors in his book—an argument that we believe to be based on distorted facts as well. Mr. Horowitz claims that the professors in his book are a representative sample of the 5 to 10 percent of all faculty teaching in America’s colleges and universities who are "radical." Mr. Horowitz derives this estimate from a single incident that occurred at Harvard University, using a method we consider to be questionable at best. He starts by assuming that all 218 of the Harvard faculty who voted to censure Harvard President Larry Summers are radicals. He then calculates that since there are approximately 2,100 faculty members at Harvard, and since 218 is approximately 10 percent of all faculties at every college in America are radical. To "control for the possibility that Harvard may be a relatively radical institution," Mr. Horowitz cuts that number in half, leaving him with a figure of 5 percent—although in writings and speeches, he usually cites the figure at 10 percent. Quite simply, we consider a method of calculation that draws a sweeping conclusion about every college and university in America on the basis of a single incident at Harvard to be extremely suspect.

The notion that The Professors bases its critique on a single episode of radical intimidation is a misreading of the book so extreme as to border on caricature. Apart from the 101 professors featured in its title, and whose continued occupation of academic positions is itself an affront to academic standards, the book anatomizes entire fields of study whose signal characteristic is their commitment to political activism over disinterested scholarship.

16. If anything, we believe Mr. Horowitz’s book is an unintentional testament to the fact that policies that are already in place to protect students’ academic freedom are working well. In his 300-plus page book, Mr. Horowitz and his team of 30 researchers do not provide a single example of a student who tried and failed to address an academic freedom-related grievance through existing university channels.

Students are generally unaware of the academic freedom guidelines of their university since they are contained in the Faculty Handbook and treated as the "rights and responsibilities of faculty." This is only one explanation for the lack of student academic freedom grievances. A second is that there is no grievance machinery designated or designed for academic freedom complaints. But this is beside the point, since The Professors does not base its claims about the erosion of academic standards on student grievances, nor does it make any claim to. This is simply yet another attempt by the authors to erect a straw man argument and avoid any thoughtful engagement with the actual arguments the book makes.

Yet it is not even a very effective straw man considering that, in point of fact, the book does provide several examples of students who attempted to resolve their concerns about the abuse of academic freedom "through existing university channels" only to meet with unsympathetic faculty. In part this was because the existing university channels are not set up to handle academic freedom complaints. A profile of Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, in The Professors, points out that complaints by pro-Israeli students, outraged by Massad’s abusive verbal attacks on students who took issue with his in-class harangues against the Jewish state, prompted a university-mandated investigation of Massad. A subsequent investigatory committee vindicated the substance of their complaints, confirming that the incidents alleged by the students had indeed taken place -- a fact Massad had strenuously denied. But, as The Professors notes, "It is instructive that nevertheless no action was taken against Massad for dissembling to the university committee." [10] Similarly, a profile of Brooklyn College professor Priya Parmar notes that disaffected students wrote letters to the college’s Dean of Education objecting to Professor Parmar’s preference for introducing politics into the classroom and her unwillingness to countenance disagreement. The college ignored their concerns.

For the Free Exchange report to claim that the book does "not provide a single example of a student who tried and failed to address an academic freedom-related grievance through existing university channels" is therefore false, and a telling demonstration of the kind of "error" that its authors are determined to attribute to others. It is also relevant in this context that, as David Horowitz writes in the book’s introduction, some universities have recently loosened the guidelines for academic freedom (and have done so with the active collusion of the professorial unions) in the service of making political activism a legitimate part of the university curriculum.

17. In our view, the arguments in Mr. Horowitz’s book are premised upon an unreasonably low assessment of students’ intelligence, and suggest that students risk indoctrination simply by being exposed to new and controversial ideas.

The book makes no assumption about "students’ intelligence" and the assertion that it does is but another invention of the authors of "Facts Count." What the book does charge -- and supports with evidence -- is that professors often conduct their classes not as objective scholars but as political activists and attempt to school their students in a partisan and ideological point of view without making them aware of other valid perspectives. Whether or not they are successful does nothing to detract from the fact that it is the dictionary definition of indoctrination. That the authors of the report prefer to euphemize such one-sided political instruction as "new and controversial ideas" suggests that even they cannot defend such practices on their merits.

18. In his book, Mr. Horowitz describes students as "hapless," and student points of view are absent from 87 of the 100 profiles in his book.

The word "hapless" is used only once in the book to describe students and refers to the those students at the City University of New York who have the misfortune of sitting through a course by the radical feminist "bell hooks," who sees her classroom instruction as "an expression of political activism." It implies no judgment about students’ intelligence.

19. At a recent speech at Penn State, Mr. Horowitz "verbally assailed students who posed critical or repeated questions," according to the Pennsylvania Centre Daily. "‘You do not have the mental capacity to understand,’ he told one. To another, he said: ‘You are deaf and brain-dead.’"27 In short, we consider Mr. Horowitz’s claim to represent students’ interests to be highly suspect.

It is eminently ironic that the same authors who (erroneously) fault David Horowitz for failing to focus solely on the in-class activities of professors should adduce remarks he made at a public event in order to condemn the arguments of his book. In addition, the authors’ version of the story conveniently omits the context of his remark. As David Horowitz recalls the incident: "Unbeknownst to me, six or seven of Dr. Sam Richards' students had lined up to ask the same question, which they had all written down. The question was how could I comment on Dr. Richards in-class teaching when I had not attended his course. The answer was that Dr. Richards posted the following declaration on his official university website: ‘It is not possible to keep our ideologies out of the classroom or any other place where ideas are shared. SO I’M OPEN ABOUT BRINGING MY IDEOLOGY INTO THIS CLASSROOM BECAUSE I SEE THAT ALL EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS ARE IDEOLOGICAL TO THE CORE.’ (emphasis in original) Dr. Richards’ students, who had lined up to ask questions, either didn’t listen to my answer or were unable to depart from the written question they had agreed to ask, or were conducting some kind of obscure protest by repeating the same challenge. I, on the other hand, was unaware that they were all working from the same pre-agreed script and as I repeated the same answer over and over could not figure out how college students could be so obtuse. By the fifth student I had lost all patience and vented my exasperation. Sorry."

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Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com


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