[Editor's Note: George Wolfe, the head of the Peace Studies Program at Ball State University in Indiana is profiled in David Horowitz’s book The Professors. He has also been the subject of several FrontPage pieces by his former student Brett Mock who described his use of his classroom for sectarian political agendas. Professor Wolfe has no academic credentials for teaching a course in the causes of war and peace. He is a Professor of the Saxophone – a performance artist in the music department. In other words, Ball State has licensed him to inflict his amateur prejudices on unsuspecting students at taxpayers’ expense. The following article is Brett Mock’s response to a public attack Wolfe made on his student (and, of course, David Horowitz) at an event sponsored by the Ball State University Sociology Department. This is in an outrage in itself. An academic department staging a public attack on a student in the name of “education” – without having the grace even to provide the student with an opportunity to respond. This is the real witch-hunt in our universities: the demonizing of conservative students – not even conservative professors, since they have already been effectively disposed of by a blacklist – for their dissident views. At the Sociology Department auto-da-fe against student Brett Mock, Wolfe played a solo composition on his saxophone which he had written for the occasion titled, “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
As Brett Mock’s response to these professorial attacks makes clear, there is no bottom to Professor Wolfe’s bag of unethical and professional tricks. Mock exposes him in this article as a calculating liar prepared to use whatever means are available to him to destroy a student’s reputation. This is not an issue between conservatives and liberals – or should not be. It is about academic professionalism and common decency. Since Wolfe is supported in his vindictive campaign against his former student Brett Mock by the university administration and the Ball State faculty, this episode provides a stark view of the appalling state of American universities today.]
On October 31, 2005, Music Professor and director of Ball State Peace Studies program George Wolfe delivered a presentation to the public as part of the Ball State Sociology Department’s Colloquium Series. The occasion was titled: “Attack on Academic Freedom by Political Extremists and the Response by Ball State University Administrators during the 2004-2005 Academic Year.”
Wolfe described his presentation, which was really a public airing of his personal vendettas, as an attempt to demonstrate how “Gandhian philosophy” can be used to respond to the allegations made by David Horowitz and myself regarding the “Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution” class he teaches – and in which I had enrolled – and the Peace and Conflict Studies Center that Wolfe directs.
Professor Wolfe praised the administrators at Ball State University for coming to his defense against what he calls “political extremism” and Mr. Horowitz’s “propaganda campaign.” He encouraged faculty and those studying to be professors to keep documentation of their in-class materials so they “can’t be misrepresented, or students can’t lie” about their classes. He also declared himself victorious in discrediting “Mr. Horowitz’s false accusations” through newspaper and other media interviews.
To support this claim, Wolfe referred to a document listing the seven allegedly false accusations that I made about his class in an article I wrote for FrontPageMag.com. This document, he said, could be examined by visiting the library and checking the material out from his library reserve account. I have since graduated from the university, but a friend at Ball State was able to check out the document from reserve and forward to me the seven issues that I had allegedly used to mischaracterize Professor Wolfe’s methods and classroom environment.
Professor Wolfe has repeatedly refused to have a public discussion or debate about these issues. Consequently, I have no platform at the university to dispute his self-serving misrepresentations and defamations of my character. The university administration and faculty are one hundred percent behind him, whether because they share his anti-military prejudices, or because they recognize that Wolfe is an embarrassment and that his course violates Ball State’s official academic standards. For his part, Wolfe has said that before he will agree to debate me on these issues, I must publicly apologize to him, and thus, in effect, concede his argument and his claims that I am a liar.
The first of Wolfe’s seven points is an attempt to defend himself against my charge that “arguments supporting military intervention were not considered in peace studies classes.” Wolfe refers to the course syllabus: “[The]course syllabus clearly explains the class as examining nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution.” But students don’t get to see the course syllabus when signing up for the course or the Peace Studies Minor (as I did). Instead they are presented with a course description in the school catalogue. My original point was that nothing in the official descriptions of the Peace Studies Minor or the course descriptions would give a student who signed up for them any indication that an anti-military agenda was the theme of the curriculum. This becomes apparent only after the student enrolls in Wolfe’s course and reads through the assigned course text, which justifies “revolutionary violence” and cites Cuba’s Communist police state as an example of its supposed benefits.
I also pointed out that the very names of the course and the minor suggest that a broader concept of “conflict resolution” will be studied. It should be obvious that in order to study “conflict resolution” one must understand the rationale for the military and the reasons for violent forms of conflict resolution, as well as peaceful, or non-violent ones. There can be no clearer evidence of Wolfe’s one-sided approach to these issues than the examples Wolfe provides to defend his class.
First, Wolfe refers to the sole required textbook for the class, Peace and Conflict Studies by David Barash and Charles Webel. (Neither author, it bears mentioning, has any scholarly background in peace studies. Barash is an animal biologist, Webel a psychologist). Wolfe would have critics believe that the text “addresses various sides of peace/war related issues.” But the authors themselves directly refute his claim. Barash and Webel explain in the introduction that “we wish to be up front about our own values, which are frankly anti-war, anti-violence, anti-nuclear, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, pro-environment, pro-human rights, pro-social justice, pro-peace and politically progressive.” Clearly this is a biased, one-sided textbook and Professor Wolfe has little regard for facts. [For a review of the Barash and Webel text by David Horowitz click here.]
Next Professor Wolfe defends the course’s examination of “military intervention” and “peace/war related issues” by pointing to three prompts he gave for written assignments and two questions on the mid-term exam. But my complaints were not about questions on exams or the prompts for written assignments. They were about the way he taught the class, about what positions he encouraged students to take and about what positions he discouraged. I also drew attention to Professor Wolfe’s failure to make available resources--required and suggested readings, for example--that students could use to acquaint themselves with views other than the left-wing perspectives provided by Barash and Webel’s text.
Professor Wolfe seems to think that he acted professionally simply by posing questions that would appear to invite individuals to present their own thoughts, form their own opinions, and present them to what might be an unbiased professor for review, discussion, and grading. But Professor Wolfe was a highly biased professor who used his grading power to support his prejudices.
The three prompts for written assignments he refers to are as follows:
1) “Compare lib[eral] and con[servative] views of issues related to war and peace.”
2) “What are some general justifications for war?”
3) “Explain the concept human rights from a liberal, conservative and collectivist perspective.”
How is a student who has sat in a class where the professor and the text relentlessly disparage and reject conservative views of issues related to war and peace supposed to respond to such an assignment? Even if the student takes the initiative to find conservative sources on his own, what are his chances of receiving fair consideration from Professor Wolfe? These are questions the professor--then as now--refuses to answer.
In the same way, he dismisses questions about his ideological agendas. Among these agendas is his opposition to the war in Iraq – not merely on the grounds that he opposes all military violence but also because he opposes America’s foreign policies on principle. Indeed, the issue of “human rights” was merely an excuse for Professor Wolfe to distribute articles in class detailing the number of civilian deaths in Iraq, which he tendentiously attributed to the United States. During the class discussion, Professor Wolfe prompted the class to analyze and discuss the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam, and pointed out that, when at war, America supported countries that violated human rights. In other words, in the global conflicts of our time – the Cold War and the War on Terror – America is on the wrong side. If the terrorists attack us, it’s because we are a country that supports dictators and violates human rights. This was the effective subtext of Wolfe’s course on “conflict resolution.”
Exams given by Professor Wolfe served less to test student’s knowledge than to reinforce his political agendas. For instance, the first mid-term question (in abbreviated form) was this: “Explain how just war theory can be used to both support and criticize the war with Iraq.” Since Professor Wolfe had explained at length how America was killing innocent civilians in Iraq – with no alternative view provided – a student making a stronger case for than against the war did so at considerable peril. Which was my point. The second question (again abbreviated) asked: “Explain the concept of 'free trade.' How does it relate to quotas, tariffs, and peace building? What are the advantages and disadvantages of free trade?” Wolfe cites this as evidence of his openness to disagreement. But it is a red-herring, because it does nothing to detract from my criticism of Wolfe’s biases with respect to questions of war and peace. Indeed, neither this, nor any of the of the other facts presented by Wolfe support his defamatory claim that I misrepresented the content of his course.
Professor Wolfe’s second allegation is that I lied in reporting that he recruited students from our class to go to Washington D.C. for the purpose of protesting the war in Iraq. In his response Wolfe claims that the trip to Washington D.C. was nothing more than a workshop that intended to teach its participants the procedures for lobbying a Congressman. This is a rather transparent deception. By visiting this Web site, one can ascertain for oneself the agendas of the “lobbying workshop” Professor Wolfe recruited his students to attend.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), which organized the event, explains that “participants gathered in the William Penn House [a radical Quaker group] to learn from FCNL lobbyists and interns about Iraq, civil liberties in the United States, nuclear disarmament, and Native American rights.” The speakers included David Culp, FCNL’s nuclear disarmament lobbyist, and Adrien Niyongabo of the Alternatives to Violence Project in the African Great Lakes region. The festivities included a visit to the statue of Gandhi near the Penn House.
Not only was the group that hosted the “lobbying workshop” an anti-military organization opposed to the war in Iraq, but the students who went on the trip were all members of the Peace Workers organization – a group directed by Professor Wolfe himself. By their own account, these students went to Washington for the purpose of protesting the war in Iraq--their main issue. That Professor Wolfe now presents this as an innocent lesson in the workings of politics is yet another symptom of his serial allergy to the truth.
Professor Wolfe’s third accusation is that I received class credit to attend a speech by Vice President Cheney in Indianapolis. This, he says, demonstrates that he is even-handed in supporting both “peace activities” and activities in support of the war. In the first place, I have never denied that I received credit for going to watch the Vice-President speak. But the two credits are hardly parallel. Students in Professor Wolfe’s course are required to do a field assignment for which they receive credit (my attendance at the Cheney speech counted for one third of my required credits). Students are required to choose two out of three options for their field assignments. One option is to be an active member of the Peace Workers Organization directed by Professor Wolfe; another option is to pay for and attend three meditation training sessions conducted by Professor Wolfe; the final option is to attend a set of “interfaith fellowship meetings” directed by Professor Wolfe. None of these activities, it should be noted, represents an academic approach to the questions of war and peace or conflict resolution – which was the basis of my complaint.
Naturally, I chose to not be a part of the Peace Workers organization, as I do not support its causes, beliefs, or activities. That left me with two options. I found the prospect of the other two choices no more attractive. The interfaith fellowship meetings seemed extremely inappropriate for a public school “field assignment.” But, since I had no choice, I chose these two. In order to gain full credit for each field assignment I had to attend three interfaith fellowship meetings and three meditation courses. Over the course of the semester my extra-curricular demands made it difficult to find times that would work for both Professor Wolfe (who presided at these assignments) and me. On one particular weekend I was unable to make it back to school from a home visit to fulfill my obligation and was therefore going to miss out on a partial field assignment credit. At the end of the semester I approached Professor Wolfe and apologized for not being able to make it to the final meditation session the weekend before. I expressed concern that my grade would suffer due to missing the session. He said that the trip to Indianapolis to watch Vice-President Cheney speak could serve as the final 1/3 of my meditation credit.
This was gracious of him then. But he is using it illegitimately as a club to beat me with now. That he kindly allowed me attend Cheney’s speech does not excuse the fact that he used his course to force-feed his own preferred political doctrines. Wolfe also overlooks the fact that I had to pay for my trip to Indianapolis to hear the vice president, while the anti-war protesters, who went to Washington under his sponsorship, had their expenses footed by the university. (Incidentally, how is political lobbying an appropriate expense for a state institution?).
Wolfe next alleges that I incorrectly characterized the nature of his relationship with the Peace Workers student organization. He claims that I inaccurately stated that he founded Peace Workers. I am willing to concede this trivial point, assuming one can trust anything Professor Wolfe says at this point. But the larger point I was making was that Professor Wolfe, as the sponsor of a sectarian political organization with clear political agendas on the war, should not have been giving students credits to joint it. I make no apologies for that.
Professor Wolfe reveals a guilty conscience when he claims that his relationship to the group is insignificant and that he “serves only as the group's faculty adviser.” This might lead one to conclude that he simply looks out for the group administratively and is not active in its affairs. That would be wrong. In fact, Professor Wolfe recruits new members to Peace Workers from his class, rewarding with academic credits those who participate. He also funds their activities, using university bank accounts provided conveniently by the taxpayers of Red-State Indiana. He also actively promotes and develops the Peace Workers’ left-wing agenda as the faculty advisor and Chairman of the Peace and Conflict Studies Center. There is, in fact, no single person involved with the group who has a bigger hand in its direction, its growth and its ability to commandeer university resources than Professor Wolfe. Whether he actually founded the organization pales into insignificance beside these activities.
The fifth issue that I have allegedly misrepresented deals with a book report Professor Wolfe requires for the completion of the course. Professor Wolfe points out that though I claimed that all of the books on the “reading list were biased to liberal views,” there was no reading list. Technically this is correct. But, once again, Professor Wolfe is not telling the whole story.
Professor Wolfe brought a dozen or so books to the classroom for students to consider for their book report assignments. Each of the books was politically liberal in nature, and pacifist in ideology or in its subject matter (some were biographies). Professor Wolfe encouraged each of us to visit the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies to choose a book from the Peace Studies library that he had accumulated. Naturally, all of the books on the shelf were of the same nature as the ones he brought to the class.
As I was unexcited by the prospect of reading, reporting, and making a presentation on a book that was opposed to my core beliefs, I asked Professor Wolfe if I could read a book of my choosing that defended violence as a viable method of conflict resolution. After all, it would encourage sound discussion and debate to have an alternative perspective. His response contained no ambiguity: The book could not defend violent forms of conflict resolution. In keeping with the theme of the course, the book had to be critical of violent forms of conflict resolution while defending non-violent approaches. The only real option I had in choosing my book was to ask to purchase a more current book than the out-dated selections available in his library. The professor agreed to purchase the book and kept it for the library once the assignment was complete.
The sixth allegation Professor Wolfe made in his defamatory indictment addressed my claim that his grading was based partly on whether students agreed with his views. His response was to issue a public disclaimer that he would never allow political, religious, or cultural viewpoints to affect the way he graded students. He backed up this disclaimer with the assertion that I only lost points on papers when my arguments were weak. He also claimed to find irony in the fact that I “didn’t even bother to find out” my score on my final exam nor did I use the universities methods to appeal my grade.
Professor Wolfe did lower my assignment credit for what he called “weak arguments” that were “not supported” on a paper on free trade, until I pointed out the support and structure of my arguments to him. This resulted in the points being replaced. I will give him a good mark here for fairness after the fact. On the other hand, a report I wrote on Noam Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival, in which I deliberately gave him the arguments he wanted to hear (and suppressed my own beliefs) miraculously resulted in extra-credit. To believe that Professor Wolfe’s grading methods are as objective as he claims, one would have to suppose that my writing skills suddenly improved in the short time since I had written favorably about a book with which I disagreed.
Professor Wolfe’s charge that I did not care about my final grade is equally without merit. I received a B+ in the course. While not an A, it was not something over which to undertake an arduous appeals process. But my complaint was never about my grade. It was about the tendentious, biased, and unprofessional nature of Wolfe’s teaching methods and course. What went on in his classroom was not education but an indoctrination in his ill-informed political prejudices. That was not what I was paying tuition fees to Ball State University to receive. The bottom line is that Professor Wolfe abused his classroom, using it as a recruitment center for his extra-curricular political activities. As a Professor of the Saxophone, Professor Wolfe is in no way qualified to teach such a course in the first place. It is not surprising that he should teach it so incompetently.
Professor Wolfe defends his credentials (or lack thereof) by providing a résumé that he feels makes him, despite his lack of academic credentials, qualified to teach the course. Professor Wolfe points out that he has a Doctorate in Higher Education. But why is this relevant? A Doctorate in Higher Education no more qualifies him to teach a course in the social, economic and cultural causes of war and peace than it would to teach a course on International Relations or Roman History.
Professor Wolfe also points out that he is a trained mediator. This may be commendable, but the fact remains that mediating disputes between individuals is a far cry from mediating disputes between states, let alone disputes between democratic states and terrorist organizations (a difference that, admittedly, may be over Professor Wolfe’s head). For an in-depth college-level course about conflict resolution it is no qualification at all.
Professor Wolfe says that he regularly gives speeches about Gandhian philosophy. But one has to wonder how being a devotee of any particular philosophy be a credential for teaching an academic course on issues as broad and complex as those of war and peace? I have been studying modern political philosophy since I was a freshman in high school. I have a degree in political science. Using Professor Wolfe’s standard, that would qualify me to teach modern political philosophy at Ball State.
Professor Wolfe points out that he serves on the advisory board of a pacifist organization, the Toda Institute for Global Research and Peace. The Toda Institute is the creation of the Soka-Gokkai cult, a Buddhist sect that believes chanting is the key to world peace. This is no more qualification to teach an academic course in war in peace than membership on an advisory board of an astrology institute would be to teach astronomy. And that concludes the resume Professor Wolfe provides as evidence of his credentials to be the director of the Peace Studies program at Ball State.
I have been abused and defamed by my former professor with the full backing of the faculty and administration of my alma mater. I am not, however, discouraged. The academic freedom movement that seeks to restore academic standards at our universities and take political agendas out of the classroom is gaining momentum in my state and across the country. For now, Professor Wolfe can launch his attacks and push his politics from behind university walls. But the battle is far from over.