Friday, July 29, 2005

Return of the academic witch hunts

Meet the New McCarthyites
Return of the Academic Witch Hunts

By DAVE LINDORFF

Here for entire Counterpunch article


McCarthy-style witch hunts are coming back, and the first place we'll be seeing them is at Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities.

Under the innocent-sounding name "Academic Bill of Rights," a gaggle of right-wing "culture warriors" in the Republican-led Pennsylvania House recently passed HR 177, a resolution authorizing them to invade public colleges and universities armed with subpoenas to grill faculty on curricula, reading lists, exams, homework assignments, grading and teaching styles, and to take testimony from students, allegedly to determine whether their professors are fair or "biased."

The underlying assumption of the resolution--part of a nationwide campaign spearheaded by one-time SDS lefty and now rabid right-wing activist David Horowitz--is that America's colleges and universities have been overrun by leftist fanatics intent on banishing conservative ideas and punishing conservative or Christian students who dare to speak out.

The notion that leftists are in charge in academia, is as bogus as the notion that the media are dominated by liberals. The political mix on most campus faculties across the country is not much different from what you'd find in the broader community. Moreover, leftist teachers are no more likely to impose their ideas on students or to punish those who disagree than are rightists (maybe less), and in either case such behavior should and would likely be roundly condemned. (Any decent school has a mechanism for students to challenge political bias by a professor, and indeed Horowitz and his minions have been hard-pressed to show any hard evidence of such abuses.) Add to this the reality that at the higher you look in university administrations, through chairs to deans and provosts on up to presidents, the more conservative officials tend to be politically. At Pennsylvania's Temple University, for example, the University Senate voted resoundingly to oppose HR177 as a threat to academic freedom and free speech, yet the university president, David Adamany-technically an ex-officio member of the Senate--was quoted publicly as not seeing anything troubling about the legislative intrusion into academic affairs.

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