David Horowitz, writer and political commentator, spoke about academic freedom to a crowd of around 200 people in the Spokane Room of the COG at Gonzaga University last Wednesday night.
The College Republicans brought Horowitz to campus as the second in a series of speakers planned for this school year.
With Spokane Police officers on security detail and his personal bodyguard standing nearby, Horowitz spoke about professionalism and ethics in the classroom.
"There is a difference between education and indoctrination," Horowitz said. "If there's one thing I hope we can agree on, it's that you can't get an education with only one side presented."
Horowitz believes that professors should keep personal political opinions and views out of the classroom.
"Students should be taught to assemble evidence, construct evidence and make an argument," Horowitz said. "If you are not given two or more sides to any issue, you are getting robbed of your education dollar."
Horowitz said that when professors express opinions in class, it interferes with their ability to teach. When personal opinions are expressed, a loss of trust ensues, according to Horrowitz.
"It destroys relationships between students and teachers," Horowitz said.
Horowitz took an informal survey of about 30 students before his speech to find out how many students knew their professors' political views in classes that didn't have anything to do with politics. Almost every student raised his or her hand.
"When I was in school, I didn't know any of my professors' views," Horowitz said. "In my 20 years in school, I never heard them express a single political view."
Horowitz said that although not all professors are liberal and espouse their political views in the classroom, far too many do.
One example he used throughout the speech was an e-mail sent by Philosophy Professor Mark Alfino to some faculty members before the speech.
"This is supposed to be a Christian college," Horowitz said. "There's nothing Christian about attacking and slandering an invited guest before he even gets here."
"I have respect … for people that express different opinions," Horowitz said. "But I have nothing but contempt for faculty that force their political agenda on students. They should have said, 'Here's a controversial figure. Go hear what he has to say, then come back and we'll discuss it.'"
Horowitz said that education should be like dialogue, and a dialogue must include more than one voice or side to an issue. In order to promote that, he is encouraging students to form Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) groups on their own campuses and urging them to pass the Academic Bill of Rights.
The Academic Bill of Rights does not only apply to conservative students. It is meant to reinforce the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure in which the American Association of University Professors stated: "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject."
Horowitz hopes to "restore the respectability" of higher education. His two biggest goals are to get professors to keep their own political agenda on either side of the spectrum out of the classroom and to remove obstructions on speakers from public college campuses.
With regard to Gonzaga, a private university, Horowitz recognized there is a difference in speaker policy.
Horowitz is comfortable with private universities making policies that promote speakers in line with their goals and missions.
"As long as the university makes [their mission] known, as long as they promote it and it's obvious, that's fine," Horowitz said.
Kim Jones, a senior, is starting a chapter of the SAF at Gonzaga.
"A lot of students feel trapped because of discrimination for conservative views," Jones said. "They don't know they have recourse."
Dan Brutocao, president of the College Republicans, felt that Horowitz had opened up the dialogue he was seeking in bringing him to campus.
"It's important for students to be able to come up with their own decisions and thoughts on things," Brutocao said. "It's important to hear both sides of a story. Gonzaga advertises that you'll graduate with the ability to think critically. But if you only graduate with one side of the story, how can you think critically?"
Following his views about academic freedom, Horowitz gave a conservative argument for the war in Iraq.
"Students don't get to hear conservative views on the Iraq War," Horowitz said during the question and answer period following the lecture. "The first part of my speech was meant to be educational and the second half was partisan because the campus has been cleansed of the Republican view."
Some students felt that Horowitz was too categorical in his arguments, using many phrases with words like never, always and entirely.
Kristine Reeves, a Gonzaga staff member, said there is always an exception and you can't make categorical statements like that.
"I don't want to give the impression that it's every professor," Horowitz said. "There are some good professors."
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