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The Case of the Colorado Exam By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 21, 2005

My campaign for academic freedom has roused up a storm of unprincipled opposition from the academic left. Although the campaign is based on the academic freedom tradition of the American Association of University Professors extending back to 1915 it has been compared by its opponents – including the current leadership of the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers -- to the “red scare” and the “ McCarthy witch-hunt ” and even Mao Zedong's purge of Communist Party officials during the “ Cultural Revolution .”

The hysterical nature of these accusations should be sufficient in themselves to demonstrate the bad faith of the opposition. The “red scare” was, in fact, a police roundup of terrorist suspects after American anarchists sent 100 mail bombs to targets earmarked for assassination, including the attorney general of the United States . The McCarthy “witch-hunt” targeted members of a conspiratorial Communist Party which is now known through the opening of the Soviet archives to have been conducting extensive espionage against the United States. Mao's cultural revolution resulted in the disappearances and deaths of Communist Party officials and intellectuals who failed to follow his political diktats.

Likening the campaign for academic freedom to such historical events is to employ precisely the political tactics its opponents claim to deplore. The academic freedom campaign is in fact an effort to end blacklists and the imposition of intellectual orthodoxies and does not target any party or political persuasion. The Academic Bill of Rights is not about Republicans and Democrats or liberals and conservatives. It is about restoring the integrity of the academic process, and about determining what is and is not appropriate to an academic classroom.

The campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights is not even about legislative measures to address these problems. Legislation became a last resort only when faculty organizations like the AAUP refused to discuss protecting students against these abuses and set itself against university reform. The AAUP took this position despite the fact that these provisions were drawn from the AAUP's own academic freedom guidelines.

On the other hand, when university administrators have shown a readiness to step forward to discuss the provisions of the Academic Bill of Rights in good faith, as happened in Colorado , legislators withdrew the Bill in favor of a “ Memorandum of Understanding ” under which all provisions are implemented by the university without legislative intervention. This was a victory of the academic freedom campaign, but it has been cynically reported as a “defeat” by its opponents.

Another dishonest tactic of the opposition has been to seize the slightest ambiguity in the information we have been gathering in order to discredit the idea that there is any problem at all. The most prominent example of this strategy involved a final exam question in a criminology course given at the University of Northern Colorado . We had drawn attention to this case to show that a fundamental principle of academic freedom – the distinction between education and indoctrination – had been ignored. Among the vigilantes who pounced on our story to discredit it were writers for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Media Matters.com the Associated Press and the Greeley Tribune , a local Colorado paper whose readership includes the University of Northern Colorado community.

This incident called into question a final exam in a criminology course taken by a University of Northern Colorado sophomore . It was one of hundreds of stories we had gathered and one of dozens that I regularly referred to in my speeches and articles. The merited attention because it was dramatic and easily understood. The student reported to us in late 2003 that she had been required to answer a “question” on her final exam that instructed students to “Explain why George Bush is a war criminal.” The test was administered approximately three weeks after the fall of Baghdad in early May 2003. In responding to the instruction, the student explained instead why she thought Saddam Hussein was a war criminal and was given an “F.”

When we initially reported this story, and throughout the academic year 2003-2004, we did not disclose the name of the student, since she was too frightened to come forward and asked us to protect her anonymity. (We did not know the name of the professor, and would not have reported it at the time in any case. Our purpose was not to indict individuals but to show the existence of a problem.) After receiving her failing grade on the exam, the student had submitted her case to a university appeals process, and – according to her testimony -- her grade was subsequently raised. The university will not make any statement about the result of the process, except to say that the student's final grade was a “B.” 

For almost a year, the Colorado exam case was one of a number of examples I used in speeches and articles to deplore the tendency of faculty ideologues use their classroom authority to indoctrinate students, betraying their academic responsibilities in the process. Then two incidents occurred to draw attention to this case. The first was the surfacing of Ward Churchill who put a face on the faculty members I was alluding to, as it happened at a Colorado University . Churchill was an academic so extreme in his viewpoints, and so unscholarly in his temperament that no one would have been surprised if he had actually imposed on his own classes an exam like the one in question. The second development was the sponsoring of an Academic Freedom Bill by a member of the Senate in Ohio .

With few exceptions the Ohio press was hostile to the Academic Bill of Rights, treating it as a threat to professorial speech, even though it was a perfectly liberal document drawn from the very canons of academic freedom devised by the American Association of University Professors. In every state, editorial writers and reporters mostly followed the talking points of AAUP spokesmen opposing the bill. In its headline describing the Bill, for example, the Cleveland Plain Dealer , typically misrepresented the academic freedom legislation as introducing new restrictions into professorial speech, even though its purpose was quite the opposite -- to introduce intellectual diversity into the curriculum and to encourage open and respectful dialogue in the classroom.

In addition to its slanted headline and story, the Plain Dealer also published an op-ed piece by a leftwing professor. Mano Singham , who suggested that I had made the whole Colorado incident up -- the student, the exam and the professor. To be fair I had made this line of attack possible by mistakenly referring to the case as one that had come up at legislative hearings held in Colorado in December 2003. It had actually been referred to in a second round of legislative hearings in September 2004, when Kay Norton, the President of the University of Northern Colorado mentioned it.

In his Plain Dealer column, Professor Singham claimed to have contacted the provost of the University and the political science department (even though it was a criminology exam in the Sociology Department). “They had never heard of this story,” he wrote in his column, “and were all surprised to hear that they were supposedly harboring this fiend. To jump to his conclusion, Singham simply ignored the testimony by president Norton and failed to contact the appropriate department.

A leftwing smear site, called MediaMatters, jumped on the case and alleged that inventing the facts was a pattern of mine and of the campaign for academic freedom. A leftwing education site, InsideHigherEd.com, then reported these malicious speculations under the headline, “The Poster Child Who Can’t Be Found,” which was two misleading insinuations in one. First, the student had never been a “poster child” for our campaign, but was only one of the many cases we had posted on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org. Second, the only reason the student couldn’t be found was that no one had really looked for her (or asked us to find her). To be fair, InsideHigherEd.com did report my objections to the thrust of its story, and my offer to locate the student and retract the story should it prove wrong. But this did not deter MediaMatters hundreds of leftwing blogsites hostile to the academic freedom campaign from spreading the “story” of our invented incident across the Internet. Nor did it prompt InsideHigherEd to correct its own story when further information proved it fundamentally wrong.
Meanwhile reports of our allegedly invented incident spread like wildfire across the web on leftwing blogsites hostile to the academic freedom campaign itself.

With our story under siege, I had my staff contact the student who was on spring break and ask her for the name of the professor, which turned out to be Robert Dunkley, as well as additional information about the criminology class in question. I published the new information, and demanded an apology. In doing so I misjudged the bad faith of the opposition, which ignored the evidence that validated our story and selectively used other information we provided – in particular the name of the professor -- to escalate the attacks.

Scott Jaschik, editor of InsideHigherEd.com called both the university and Professor Dunkley, and wrote a story without checking his claims with us. The result was the most damaging report yet.

Titled, “ Tattered Poster Child ” (thus repeating the false claim that this was a singular case) the Jaschik story reported first that Dunkely, was not a “wild-eyed liberal” (implying that we had said he was) but a Republican. In fact our academic freedom campaign was never about leftwing abuses as opposed to right wing abuses. It was about academic abuses without regard for viewpoint. I had never identified Dunkley as a liberal and I have in fact defended liberal students against conservative professors who have targeted them for indoctrination. For the record we have scoured the election roles and Republican Party contribution records and can find no evidence that Dunkley is telling the truth even in this trivial matter. But even if Dunkely were a Republican I would still have defended this student against him.

Jaschik's article further reported that the famous exam question was not “required,” as the student had claimed, and that the student got a “B” grade not an “F” as we reported. Finally, he reported that according to Dunkley and the university spokeswoman, the text of question itself was different from what we had said it was.

These were serious charges. The only bright lining for us was that the new exam question that Dunkely provided to Jaschik was very close to the one we had reported and thus was also a clear case of indoctrination. This prompted me to make a serious tactical mistake.

Instead of waiting to refer these matters to the student for her response – she was still on spring break and not easy to reach – I decided to immediately post an article article conceding that we had possibly erred on some minor points. I say “possibly” because Dunkley had destroyed all copies of the exam and the students' answers, even though this was a violation of university regulations. I felt confident in offering this “correction” because even if the university's and Dunkley's claims were true, the bottom line was that the essay question still required one right answer on a controversial matter of opinion, which was a form of indoctrination. I assumed that the students' claims would be given a fair shake, particularly because of Dunkley's destructive act. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The student had reported to us that she had originally received an “F” on the exam for writing about Saddam Hussein. Dunkley claimed he gave her a bad grade (he will not say what the grade was) because she handed in a two-page answer when three were required. Since Dunkley had destroyed her exam, this claim seemed suspicious on its face, though no independent press source mentioned this fact.

Although Dunkley and the university referred to her final “B” grade as a refutation of the student's claim to have received an “F,” neither of them would say (and neither were asked by the press) whether they were claiming she also got a “B” on the original exam and not an “F.” If she did, why would she have gone through an appeal? In fact, the student told us that the “B” grade was her final grade in the course, while the exam grade was indeed an “F”. She had been able to raise her grade through the appeals process when the university had allowed her to receive credit for her class work even though she had been failed on the exam itself. That's how she ended up with the “B.”

A short time later, I received this confirming email from the student: “I did fail the final exam, at least that is what I was told, however based on Dunkley's and the school's comments you never really know what is truthful. It has always been my understanding and my story that I got an “F” on the exam but a B in the class. I don't think Dunkley disputed that but he is such a manipulative person you never really know.” Not a single press source that had reported the claims of Dunkely and the university spokeman so much as commented on the student's defense of her claim.

In my “correction” article, I had included the exam question that the university spokesman provided to Jaschik, and which our student claimed Dunkely had doctored after the exam, and specifically for the appeals process. The exam question he supplied was this:

“The American government campaign to attack Iraq was in part based on the assumptions that the Iraqi government has ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.' This was never proven prior to the U.S. police action/war and even President Bush, after the capture of Baghdad , stated: ‘we may never find such weapons.' Cohen's research on deviance discussed this process of how the media and various moral entrepreneurs and government enforcers can conspire to create a panic. How does Cohen define this process? Explain it in depth. Where does the social meaning of deviance come from? Argue that the attack on Iraq was deviance based on negotiable statuses. Make the argument that the military action of the U.S. attacking Iraq was criminal?”

In reading this it occurred to me that there were several transparent peculiarities about the text. It referred to the deviant criminal behavior of states (rather than individuals,) which is a complex subject appropriate to an advanced course in international law, not an introductory survey course in criminology, particularly one administered by the sociology department for sophomores. Dunkley's course is described like this in the 2002-2003 UNC Course Catalog : “SOC 346 - Criminology. Survey criminal behavior generally, including theories of causation, types of crime, extent of crime, law enforcement, criminal justice, punishment and treatment.” The criminal behavior of states does not appear to be part of the course. States are not commonly the subjects of criminology courses because states normally commit and normally sanction acts that would be criminal if committed by individuals. This suggested to me that to defend question in the appeals process, Dunkley had substituted the United States as the criminal actor in place of the original subject, which was George Bush.

I did not bring this up in my response to this round of attacks, but confined myself to the very last sentence of the exam question, which was a declarative statement ending inexplicably with a question mark. Notwithstanding the inappropriate punctuation, the sentence enjoined students to give only one answer to a highly controversial question. It was in fact, exactly the same instruction that we had originally reported and objected to -- except that the war criminal was the United States instead of George W. Bush. On the other hand, as the chief executive of the United States , George Bush would have been equally guilty.

Since our original point had been validated – the exam was an indoctrination, I decided to post these thoughts and concede that perhaps we had erred in stating our case about the grade and even the form of the question more authoritatively than we should have (I will explain our position on the issue of whether the question was “required” in a moment). I did this to show our good faith. Better to concede the uncertainties and possible error about minor points – I thought – in order to return the focus to the main issue, which was the inappropriateness of the question itself.

I wrote: “So while we apologize for not having fully checked and corrected this story, we conclude that our complaint about the exam was justified. What happened in Professor Dunkley's class at the University of Northern Colorado is not education, it is indoctrination. And that violates the academic freedom of the students who were subjected to it.” I thought that would be the end of it. This was a huge mistake. 

MediaMatters was the first to attack . I had accused Media Matters of slander for spreading the false story that I had invented the student, the exam and professor. Media Matters not only never retracted that falsehood, but now embellished its accusations: “Under fire right-wing campus watchdog admits Colorado exam story is phony after accusing Media Matters of slander.” Literally hundreds of leftwing blogsites picked up the “phony” story angle and circulated it on the Internet: “Over the past week we've watched as David Horowitz's reputation for accuracy and integrity have taken a beating…at the hands of David Horowitz,” commented leftwing blogster Roger Ailes (not the FoxNewsChannel Ailes).

Meanwhile, the Greeley Tribune , interviewed Dunkley and swallowed his claims whole: “ Professor Calmly Refutes Test Tales ,” was its headline. Picking up an equally uncritical AP story (based on the one-sided Tribune interview), the Denver Post , followed suit. Five days later, the Greeley Tribune followed its sweetheart Dunkley interview with an editorial attack  on my integrity and credibility, which began: “Intentional ignorance is as bad as lying. If David Horowitz didn't know that before the essay question controversy at the University of Northern Colorado , he should now.” The entire editorial was based on no evidence or independent reporting, but solely on the questionable claims of a professor who had destroyed his exam and whose student had succeeded in getting redress at a special hearing over her unfair grade.

In its interview with Dunkley, the Tribune described the alleged exam he had come up with after the fact in these disingenuous words: “UNC released a copy of the test from his class last week. The instructions tell students that the question which reportedly offended the student is optional. The question is 119 words, not the one sentence reported.”

Of course UNC did no such thing, because it did not have a copy of the original exam; it had Dunkley's “recollection” of his exam. The document he submitted with reconstructed essay questions has a roman numeral I section but no roman numeral II, an additional unexplained problem. The document contains the four exam essay questions, of which two were required and two the student had to choose between.

At the end of this article, I am appending the four essay questions supplied by Dunkley after the fact so the reader can judge what the merits of this case. The reader will see that the first optional question is just as controversial as the Iraq question and also requires a single answer.

The first optional question begins like this: “ The taboo (deviance) society places on homosexual relationships and gay lifestyles today is beginning to subside. Attempts are being made to allow gay marriages, which appears right around the corner. Make an argument that would support gay marriages and gay families and explain how this additional type of family could help prevent crime…” It is not too difficult to imagine why a conservative student might regard the two “optional” questions as a requirement to write an essay expressing views with which she could not agree.

Like the Iraq war “question” the instruction to defend gay marriage requires a politically correct answer to a controversial issue. It is another unprofessional attempt by Dunkley to force his students to defend his own political agendas.

Indeed all of the exam questions devised by Dunkely, which include explications of “power theory,” “marxism” and “feminism,” are more appropriate to a training course in leftwing theory, than to an academic course in a public university. None of these questions reflect a professorial interest in opening students' minds to a diversity of ways in which one might look at crime and the family.

The final examination for Sociology 346, was a take home exam given to students on May 5 and due on May 9, 2003 , according to the information supplied by Dunkley and the University of Northern Colorado , through its spokesperson Gloria Reynolds. As my colleague Ryan Call observed upon receiving a copy of the document the dating of the exam puts the whole matter of who is lying in this dispute between the student and Professor Dunkley in a new light.

Recall how the text of the disputed exam question begins: “The American government campaign to attack Iraq was in part based on the assumptions that the Iraqi government has ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.' This was never proven prior to the U.S. police action/war and even President Bush, after the capture of Baghdad , stated: ‘we may never find such weapons.'…”

Baghdad fell on April 13, 2003 , and the exam question was handed out roughly three weeks later. As of this date, May 5, 2003 , neither President Bush nor anyone in the White House was saying “we may never find such weapons.” Here is what President Bush actually said to reporters on May 31, 2003 , three weeks after the exam:

“You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons.... They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two [the labs were later judged to not contain any such weapons, that they most likely were used for weather balloons]. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on, But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them.”

This statement by Bush, conclusively reiterating his belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and made more than three weeks after the exam was handed to students, lends credence to the student's claim that the exam question supplied by Dunkley to the university and the media was not the original exam question. The student does not have any recollection of the Bush quote appearing in the original exam, or the final sentence as supplied by Dunkley after the fact.

When I brought this evidence to InsideHigherEd.com. It's editor refused to concede that it showed anything at all about Dunkley's claims (though he did offer to link any story I wrote about the case). When I brought it to The Greeley Tribune , its editors came up with an AP story by White House correspondent Ron Fournier that appeared on April 24, 2003 . This would have been two weeks before the Dunkley exam was handed to students. The story was headlined “Bush Says Weapons of Mass Destruction May Have Been Destroyed.” Although the Bush quote in Dunkley's exam (“we may never find such weapons”) did not appear in the AP article, this created enough ambiguity so that someone intent on defending Dunkley could plausibly claim that the professor had misread the Fournier piece and made up the Bush quote on the basis of its headline.

To do so, however, Dunkley would have had to ignore the actual text of the Fournier article which quoted Bush unambiguously asserting that weapons of mass destruction did exist in Iraq and would be found: “‘ [Saddam Hussein] tried to fool the United Nations and did for 12 years by hiding these weapons. And so it's going to take time to find them,' the President said at the Lima Army Tank Plant. ‘But we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them or hid them, we're going to find out the truth.'”

Dunkley and others have made one further claim, which is to suggest that the professor was playing “devil's advocate” in compelling students to make the case for gay marriage or explain why the United States and its President were conducting a criminal operation in Iraq . This seems a very large stretch when all four essay questions on this final exam required students to explain and apply leftwing theories or justify leftwing prejudices on controversial political issues. It is more plausible that both the professor and his course were committed to these points of view. This is a conclusion reinforced by the way the actual views of Bush were distorted by Dunkley to imply their opposite.

Although the destruction of the evidence by Dunkley and the refusal of the university administration to provide a candid accounting of the appeals process make a conclusive verdict impossible, it seems beyond question that Dunkley's exam was an indefensible attempt to force students in Sociology 346 to demonstrate a knowledge of leftwing theory (and no other theories) and to argue the radical point of view on two extremely controversial issues in order to get a good grade.

This is indoctrination not education, a distinction that has been recognized for nearly hundred years by the academic profession. As the Dunkley case shows the distinction was not observed in this Colorado exam and – more troubling -- neither the university system nor the nation's press seems to care.


I. The following questions are essay. Answer as completely as possible. Be thorough and concise, but make a solid argument and logical case for your answer. Make sure you answer all questions sought. All Students must answer questions 1& 2. Select one question from 3 & 4 to answer. The minimum number of pages per question is three (3) typed, double spaced, and stapled to the test questions.

1) Compare and contrast Power Control Theory and Integrated-Structural Marxism. How do they analyze the family in terms of social class? How does this class discussion relate to crime? Which family members are essentially excluded in their analysis? What are the weak points of both theories and what are their strengths? Which theory do you support?

2) The Feminist movement of the 1980s offered a significant “new way” in looking at law and its affect on women. The idea of equality is an issue still unresolved. Explain what the equality doctrine is. How should women define and respond to sexual differences? Can the claim of special treatment for women be considered problematic? Why? How can this be neutralized? What do feminists mean by “Doing Law?”

3) The taboo (deviance) society places on homosexual relationships and gay lifestyles today is beginning to subside. Attempts are being made to allow gay marriages, which appears right around the corner. Make an argument that would support gay marriages and gay families and explain how this additional type of family could help prevent crime (use one of the above theories form question #1 in your discussion and Shaw and McKay's analysis of social ecology).

4) The American government campaign to attack Iraq was in part based on the assumptions that the Iraqi government had “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” This was never proven prior to the US police action/war and even President Bush, after the capture of Baghdad , stated “we may never find such weapons.” Cohen's research on deviance discusses this process of how the media and various moral entrepreneurs and government enforcers can conspire to create panic. How does Cohen define this process? Explain it in-depth. Where does the social meaning of deviance come from? Argue that the attack on Iraq was deviance based on negotiable statuses. Make the argument that the military action of the US attacking Iraq was criminal?

David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.

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