David Horowitz – Interview Transcript
“President Adamany, in his opening remarks, said most of the things that I would like Temple to do. He pointed out that they have an academic freedom policy, which says that professors should not use the classrooms as political soapboxes. My problem is it’s not enforced. He said that intellectual diversity was central to a higher education. He said that students should not be discriminated against politically and he said that there should be a grievance policy for students. That’s really what my intent is.”
“The campaign for the Academic Bill of Rights is misrepresented in an extreme way. The Academic Bill of Rights does not compel professors to present every side of every question all the time. It merely says that students should be made aware that there’s not only one side to an issue. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. It does not say you have to teach holocaust denial or intelligent design. Holocaust denial is a theory for Jew-hating kooks and it has no place in a university. It’s a kook theory; it’s not a scholarly theory.”
“The Academic Bill of Rights only says students should be made aware of the spectrum of significant scholarly opinion. Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory and it has no place in a biology class. It’s also said that we want affirmative action hiring for conservatives. The Academic Bill of Rights says you can’t hire anybody based on their point of view. You shouldn’t hire people only because their liberals or conservatives.”
What was your main area of study when you attended Columbia University during the 1950s?
“I was an English major. It was a useless subject.”
Were you interested in the educational field then? Did you ever plan to pursue a career in teaching?
“No. I was interested in being a Marxist revolutionary. I thought that the study of English would be a good tool in learning how to communicate. It was stupid. When I was at the M.A. level, I saw that English literature was really a small subject. I had studied classical Chinese, and Chinese literature spans 2,000 years. English literature is a 300-year period and every bright graduate student who wasn’t that good at foreign languages became an English professor and wrote books. There was nothing to do, so I left the field. It didn’t occur to me that we could change English literature and the study of it into feminism, Marxism and other extraneous ideas, so I just left and started to write books.”
What was your academic experience like at Columbia? As a student, did you ever feel alienated or discriminated against by a professor?
“I loved it. My goal with the Academic Bill of Rights is to bring the university back to where Columbia was when I went there. When I was an undergraduate at Columbia it was the McCarthy era. I entered in 1955, but the atmosphere was there. None of my professors ever uttered a political comment in the classroom. I wrote Marxist papers, none of them singled me out the way conservative students are often singled out. I was graded as any other student on how I assembled the evidence and how I constructed the argument. I would like to see politics taken out of the university classroom, period. That’s my motto.”
What were some of your political activities during the ’50s and ’60s? You claim to have had leftist and even Marxist political views during this time period.
“I’ve written whole books. I wrote a book called Empire and Revolution. I wrote a book called Marx and Modern Economics. I wrote a book called The Free World Colossus, which was a critique that America was responsible for the Cold War and was oppressing people in the third world. My parents were Communists. I was a Marxist. I was in the NAACP and that was the most radical organization we had in the ’50s. Then I went to England and I worked for Bertrand-Russell Peace Foundation, which organized the Vietnam War crimes tribunal.”
Now you refer to yourself as a “conservative intellectual.” What caused this drastic change in convictions?
“I had written an autobiography called Radical Son, which describes how I changed my views. The short story is that I raised a lot of money to create a school for the Black Panther Party. They murdered the woman I recruited to do the bookkeeping for the school and that ended my career in the left. If you want a nutshell version of why I’m a conservative today what the left says sounds very good, but, in practice, it works out very badly. Socialism killed 100 million people in the last 70 or 80 years in peacetime. Left-wing ideas and left-wing programs are bad for poor people. They’re just plain bad. The ideas sound very nice. Social justice is a wonderful sounding idea but when you try to put it into practice, it produces police states like the Soviet Union.”
What is your opinion of the McCarthy hearings, which took place while you were a student?
“My parents both lost their jobs because of McCarthyism, so I am a fierce opponent of guilt by association. [McCarthy] was a demagogue. I’m actually against all publicized Congressional hearings because they’re basically courts without rights, so I was against the Iran Contra hearings. Congressional hearings should be held privately. They shouldn’t be on television because the witnesses don’t have any protection. It’s the left now which practices McCarthyism. You can’t read a story about me in a leftist journal without bringing up every association I ever had connecting me to right wing funding and this and that. Why don’t they just deal with the issues? I try to deal with the issues. [McCarthyism] is bad, evil. On the other hand, you have to recognize that there was an international communist conspiracy and my parents were part of it. Communists did want the Soviet Union to win the Cold War and communists did do a lot of spying. All that’s true, but if you commit treason you should be tried in a court of law with rights. A congressional committee just hangs you in public. It’s bad.”
How do you think academia has changed since the McCarthy era?
“My opponents are the McCarthyites. My Academic Bill of Rights is a liberal bill of rights. I have just offered $10,000 to any member of the American Historical Association, which has just condemned my bill. They condemned it because they said it would establish political standards for the curriculum. That’s a lie and I’ve offered $10,000 to any person who can show me one sentence in the Academic Bill of Rights that imposes political criteria on anyone. I’m against McCarthyism and I feel that my opponents are the McCarthyites. I defended Ward Churchill against the governor of Colorado. He called for Ward Churchill to be fired because of the statements he made. I wrote an op/ed column in the Denver Rocky Mountain News saying you cannot fire Ward Churchill for expressing his first amendment rights. I am a fierce defender of first amendment rights. That’s why I oppose speech codes.”
“When I went to school I never heard a professor make a political comment in class. It’s a big change. You could be studying physics and I will bet a professor has made a political comment in class. That’s unprofessional. It’s an abuse of students’ academic freedom and nobody would stand for it if a professor got up and said ‘John Kerry is a traitor.’ Every left at Temple would be screaming bloody murder and that professor would be reprimanded. So if it’s not OK for professors to attack Kerry, why is it OK for professors to attack George Bush in an English class or a Spanish literature class or a mathematics class? It’s not.”
Why did you decide to launch this campaign for academic reform in 2003? What sparked your interest in this pursuit? How did you become involved in the academic realm?
“I had meant to do it the year of 9/11 but I couldn’t get it on the radar screen. So I postponed it. I’ve been traveling on campuses for about 20 years and I’ve seen how students are abused politically by professors. I have a slogan: it says you can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story. If you were a liberal student or a left-wing student, you’re not getting a good education unless you hear a conservative argument presented without ridicule. You need to have a conservative professor to see how conservatives think. This is what an education is. It should expose you to left and right. You should have multiple views. I remembered how I was treated when I was the son of communists at Columbia. My professors treated me better than Temple professors treat their conservative students today. That upsets me. I have defended left-wing students. I have defended the head of the anti-war movement at Foothills College in California because his professor was pro-life and gave him a D for being pro-choice. I’m outraged by that. A professor has a responsibility to all their students, not just the ones who agree with them politically. This goes for conservative professors, few though they are, and liberal professors. This is not a right-wing campaign. I am a conservative and I don’t hide that fact, but this campaign is about good manners on the part of teachers. Teachers need to behave better than they do. You wouldn’t go to your doctor and expect to get a lecture on the war in Iraq. Why should you get it from your English professor? They don’t have any expertise in geopolitics. So why are they teaching you about imperialism in English literature?”
You have stated that universities today are not “intellectually free” and “partisan.” What has led you to believe that there is political bias within classrooms? How have you gathered evidence to make this allegation?
“I have been on 300 campuses. I would guess that I have interviewed 2,000 to 3,000 students on those campuses. Probably more. I’ve normally invited conservatives to speak with me. I asked the conservative students, ‘How many of you have been in class where the professor has expressed an opinion about the war in Iraq, about the presidency of George Bush or Republicans?’ Every hand goes up almost every time, so I know there’s a problem out there.”
Is there a significant amount of student complaints? What is the nature of these complaints? Do most of these aggrieved students tend to hold similar political and social views? If so, what are these views?
“I would like you to just stop 10 students at random and ask them what the academic freedom policy at Temple is. I will bet that you’ll get zero students who will know what it is if they weren’t at these hearings. That’s one reason you don’t get complaints. It’s so normal to have your professor call George Bush a moron in class. You don’t know that your academic freedom rights are being violated when they do that. When you come in, you have orientation and they tell you that racial discrimination is wrong and gender discrimination is wrong. They tell you that you can go here or there if you’re sexually harassed. They don’t tell you that your professors should not be making political speeches in your classes. They should be providing you with textbooks that have more than one point of view. You’re not told that, so why should you expect it and what are you going to complain about?”
“The problem is that you have almost no conservative professors on this campus. I think it is informal blacklisting. I think it’s almost impossible for a conservative to get a job. The reality is that there are almost no conservatives. The ones that are there are so careful about what they say because they are so isolated. I don’t want to see conservative speeches in the classroom. I want to see students taught.”
Is there a particular area of study that you are especially concerned about? In a press release, you have mentioned that gender theory textbooks being used at Temple are “almost entirely one-sided.”
“I was referring to the first-year writing program. This is taught by English graduate students, mainly. What the heck do they know about gender theory? Why are they experts? You are paying money to be taught by experts. People are supposed to get Ph.Ds in their field of expertise. What the heck is this? They don’t know gender theory or race theory. Are they sociologists? This is Temple. This is not the Hannity and Colmes show where anybody can give their opinion. You’re paying money to get experts in the field. So I think the whole freshman writing program is problematic. I think the women’s studies department at Temple only teaches radical feminism. In Philadelphia, you have the most famous feminist in the United States, Camille Paglia. She couldn’t get a job at Temple if she tried in the women’s studies department because she’s not politically correct. She doesn’t agree with them. It’s an ideological field. If you look at the courses, they’re taught ideologically. It should be called the feminism department. Suppose you had a conservatism department at Temple. Do you think people might object and say, ‘Hey, that’s not academic, that’s political?’ Well so is the women’s studies department at Temple. It’s a political program and not an academic program. It’s not about women. It’s about feminist views of women; radical feminist views because there are also conservative feminists.”
Which sides of the subject do you feel are being underrepresented? What are some other areas of discipline that you feel are particularly salient?
“I think the intellectual heritage series is a big problem. I just looked at the treatment of Marx. When I looked on the Web site for the intellectual heritage center, nobody points out that Marx’s ideas led to the murder of 100 million people. Do you think they would teach a course about Hitler without mentioning the consequence of Hitler’s ideas? If you were to read a theory that was written by a racist, you would connect that to slavery, lynching and so forth. Here you have all these professors talking about Marx as though nobody ever tried to put those ideas in practice and nothing bad ever happened. That is indoctrination. You basically go through that course to learn what a great thinker Marx was. In my view, and I have read Marx’s books, he was a crackpot who caused the deaths of millions of people.”
In order to rectify the alleged bias and prevent professors from using the classroom as a “political soapbox,” you have drafted an Academic Bill of Rights. What are some of the key components of this bill? Why should this bill be considered the protocol for academia? How do you believe it can change academia for the better?
“The Academic Bill of Rights is really about manners. It tries to encourage intellectual diversity and I’ll say it again, you can’t get a good education if you’re only hearing one side of the story. An education should be teaching you how to think and not what to think or what correct opinions to have. An education should be teaching you how to look at the evidence and analyze it. There are many different ways of how to analyze evidence. The big categories can be conservative or liberal but within those two large categories, there’s lots of different ways. The core of an education is seeing how differently you can see these things. Intellectual diversity is a core value of the Academic Bill of Rights but it’s really about fairness and inclusion. The basic things are really that students should be aware that there are facts but the big trick is the opinions you get from the facts. People can see the same facts and draw very different conclusions. The Academic Bill of Rights tries to take the politics out of education. Actually, Temple’s [academic freedom policy] is stronger than the Academic Bill of Rights in saying that professors should not bring irrelevant, controversial matter into the classroom. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t teach controversial subjects, it means you shouldn’t advocate one side of a controversy. People bring up things like slavery. Should we have a pro-slavery position? Slavery is not a controversial issue. Nobody supports slavery. Controversial issues are abortion, race preferences, the war in Iraq. Those are controversial issues. Those are the ones that shouldn’t be brought up irrelevantly. The professor, if he or she is going to teach all students, should not be an advocate for one side of the issue. They should be bringing students to the point where they can make their own judgments.”
You claim to have based the Academic Bill of Rights on the 1915 General Report on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which had been written for the American Association of University Professionals. How do these principles of academic freedom established in 1915 correlate with the academic climate of today?
“I based it on the academic freedom tradition that’s generally accepted. There’s nothing radical about it. There are two innovations in the Academic Bill of Rights. One is that it’s phrased as students’ rights. The academic freedom was developed by a professors’ guild, the American Association of University Professors. It’s all in terms of the fact that professors have this right and they have this responsibility. All I did was say that if it’s the professor’s responsibility not to bring controversial matter into the classroom, it should be a student’s right as well. The second thing I did was to codify it and there were like eight principles so it’s like a bill of rights. That’s basically all I did. The values in it are all completely consonant with and drawn from the academic freedom tradition.”
“The Temple academic freedom policy is the 1940 statement of the AAUP. It’s very difficult to find on the Temple Web site. One of the things that President Adamany said was that students should know and that the information should be given to students. I applaud that. I think every student should be given a student handbook or whatever materials you get at the orientation that say ‘these are your rights.’ That’s the 1940 statement and the Temple policy. I don’t think we actually say this thing about the controversial matter. I think it’s very important and I’m really glad Temple has it. What we’re trying to do with these hearings is basically to get Temple to enforce its own policies. [Temple’s academic freedom policy] says that professors should not indoctrinate students. Indoctrination is being taught a doctrine and you’re not being taught to critique the doctrine. You’re not being taught counter-doctrines. You’re only being taught the doctrine. It’s like I said, the women’s studies department teaches a doctrine. It teaches about gender inequality and gender issues and it doesn’t have other issues. And that’s not what we mean by academic. That’s doctrinal training and universities should not be about doctrinal training unless they are religious universities. If Temple wants to rename itself, that’s OK with me as long as the students know before they get there.”
You have also stated that professors should not introduce controversial material into the classroom that is irrelevant to the subject matter. Specifically, what kind of material would be viewed as controversial and who would determine this? How can discussion of controversy be avoided in classes dealing with topics that are inherently controversial such as race, gender, religion, politics, philosophy, etc.?
“We had testimony today from Logan Fisher, a student who was made to feel awkward and out of place. Professors can ridicule you and professors should not be ridiculing viewpoints, whether they’re left-wing viewpoints or conservative viewpoints. The professor has a lot of authority. They’ve lived longer, they’ve read more, and they’ve got qualifications from having gone through training. They shouldn’t throw their weight around in this kind of discussion. They should guide it, but it should be an educational experience. If they slam down a student, they’re not educating that student. They’re basically using their authority to intimidate them.”
What is the mission of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, of which you are president? What kind of activities is CSPC involved in?
“To defend the cultural foundations of a free society. The Center is involved in other activities. I publish a magazine called Front Page. It’s part of the cultural battles of our time. The Academic Bill of Rights is really viewpoint neutral. It’s portrayed by those who are opposing it as part of a right-wing agenda; but it really isn’t. This has become a kind of a partisan battle because people on the left have made it that way. But I welcome anybody who will support the principles. These principles will protect left-wingers just as much as right-wingers. Nobody should be hired or fired on a basis of their politics. It does not speak about liberal bias. There’s no word like that in there. It does not call for balance. I’ve never called for balance. But we all know that classes are very one-sided. There’s a whole atmosphere here that says it’s cool to be liberal. There are pro-Kerry signs all over the campus. There were ‘God is not a Republican’ signs, which one of the students complained about. You had Michael Moore and you had the ‘Vote or Die’ pro-Kerry crews. You didn’t have any Republican event. This is not what a university should be all about. Universities should be welcoming to all points of views, not hateful points of view but respectful points of view.”
What is the mission of Students for Academic Freedom? How many chapters of SAF are there nationwide? How does SAF gather evidence and information about political bias on public university campuses?
“There are 150 chapters nationwide. Students for Academic Freedom promotes intellectual diversity and what I would call educational values. As I say, Temple University should not be the Hannity and Colmes show. It should have a more respectful dialogue. People shouldn’t be shouting at each other on a college campus and nobody should be ridiculed for their point of view. You need to respect people’s differences. What a university education should do is teach you how to articulate a response. It should be better than the rest of society. I’ve never used that word bias. I happen to personally think that Marxism should be in the religion department. I don’t respect Marxists but if you have a Marxist professor, all I ask is that when they present that they let students know that they are a Marxist and they are teaching from a Marxist perspective. They should put some major critic of Marx on their required reading list so that students get to see the argument and that they don’t grade students for disagreeing with them on controversial issues.”
“We have a bulletin board where students can lodge a complaint about their professors doing inappropriate things in the classroom. On there it says ‘if you are a professor and you want to respond, we’ll post it,’ and we post it. It’s not Students for Academic Freedom’s place to judge these things. The university should set up a grievance machine. It should be done inside the university. I’m just raising evidence that there’s a problem. I’m not saying that all this evidence has been reviewed or that it’s 100 percent accurate. I’m just saying there’s a problem out there and I want the university to deal with the problem. The Democrats and [President Adamany] said ‘we don’t have a problem.’ Then you heard a student testify and there is a problem. I think all the schools have this particular problem. Everybody who’s on this campus knows that there is a problem. So just deal with it. The universities themselves should deal with the problem. I’m not trying to solve it and I don’t think the legislature should solve it. That’s not their business. What we want to do is kind of prod the universities to take care of this. I haven’t looked at the Temple faculty but you might have one conservative per department. If you had one woman professor per department or one black professor per department or whatever, people would say ‘there’s something wrong with this and we should do something.’ That’s the argument for skin diversity. It’s that people have different perspectives.”
Are there any particular universities that you feel are especially troublesome?
“I was just at the University of Rhode Island and I think the atmosphere there was quite bad. I started my speech and five minutes into my speech, 100 students marched in and they stood in the back. At the end of the speech, when everybody applauded, they all turned their backs. That’s a terrible atmosphere. This is about manners. Of course I was only there for a few hours but it appeared bad to me. I was surprised that Kenyon [University] is actually quite a good school. It’s a small liberal arts school in Ohio. An English professor doesn’t know beans about imperialism. They shouldn’t be pontificating about imperialism in a Shakespeare class. I said, ‘When you read Shakespeare do they use it to teach you feminism, imperialism, or whatever. When I asked the students who were studying English literature there what was actually being taught, they said they teach us the literature and that’s fine by me. And I interviewed the conservative students because they would be sensitive to this. Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discuss these issues but there are teachers that use the texts to explicate their theories.”
What are some of the organizations that fund your campaign? Do any of these organizations have political affiliations? If so, what are they?
“I have 40,000 people who give me money and I make up the campaigns. Universities have been dominated as a rule by the left. This problem has been going on for 30 years. Nobody did anything about it until I did it. Nobody told me to do this. This comes out of me. If somebody could have told me to do it, it would have been done a long time ago. I imagine everybody would have a political affiliation. They’re all very political. You’ll notice in the committee that the Democrats are all against it and the Republicans are all for it. I think that’s a shame. What I’m trying to do is non-partisan. It will benefit everybody. Believe me, it will benefit liberals. We haven’t complained about the point of view. What we’ve said is what Temple’s policy says. You shouldn’t bring politics into the classroom that’s irrelevant to the subject. It’s all about process. So it shouldn’t be left and right. The fact that it’s partisan, in my view, is because of the Democrats. They opposed it because the left is opposing it. When we first came out with the Academic Bill of Rights, the AAUP, which is a far-left organization these days, attacked it. All of the attacks say the same thing. They say that we oppose political standards. False. And I’ve offered $10,000 to anyone who can prove otherwise.”
You have met some fierce opposition throughout your campaign for academic reform. Who would you say are your largest opponents? Who are your closest allies?
“Political ideologues who are also professors. Those people are definitely threatened by the Academic Bill of Rights, which will say that professors should keep their politics to themselves in the educational setting. That goes for me too. I’m a conservative but if I’m a professor here, I’ll keep my politics to myself.”
“The odd thing is, since I’m accused of being the right wing plot, I have had no support from the conservative press. My allies include Gib Armstrong (D., Lancaster), who’s obviously supporting me. I’m hoping there will be more of a movement but, basically, it’s my movement. But there are some other campus groups that have supported me as well. I’d take support from anyone. If a Democrat comes up to me tomorrow and says ‘I think your bill of rights is a good idea,’ I would take their support.”
In what ways have you attempted to gain media attention? Have these methods worked?
“By going to the legislatures, I have put this on the map. Nobody would have paid any attention if there weren’t legislatures involved. The Chronicle of Higher Education, their reporter was there today and they did a big story on me. They’ve got two really large stories on the campaign. The New York Times and USA Today have done a couple of stories. There will be more interest as time goes on.”
In what ways have you attempted to gain the attention and support of students? Have these methods worked?
“I spoke on about 12 campuses this fall. I expect to speak at about 20 in the spring. I’ve taken out ads in college papers.”
When the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Resolution No. 177, you stated that it was “squarely based on the Academic Bill of Rights.”
“If you read [HR 177] and you read the Academic Bill of Rights, you will recognize the language. State Rep. Gib Armstrong contacted me, I had no idea who he was, but he called me because a student at York College was in a physics class and the professor was ranting about the Iraq War. It happened that this student was a female, was a veteran and she was upset that she had to sit through somebody venting their ignorant opinions. And I say that they’re ignorant not because they oppose the war in Iraq but a physics professor is not an expert on the war in Iraq. He has as much right to his opinion as you or I do, but keep it out of the class.”
“He contacted me and he said that he read the Academic Bill of Rights and he wanted to do legislation. The committee was his idea. I did not have any role in drafting the legislation that I can remember.”
Why did you decide to appeal to legislators who are themselves far removed from the academic realm? Did you attempt to confront university administrators first? If so, what was their response?
“They were intimidated. There is a radical minority on every faculty. I would say it’s about 10 percent of the faculty that can make the president’s life a living hell. They were [at the hearings] today. The people who run the Faculty Senate are activists who want to protect their right to indoctrinate people. The real difference is between the scholars and the activists. That’s what I’m fighting, activists instead of professors. They can be activists but do it in your neighborhood. Don’t do it on Temple’s campus. Don’t do it in the classroom. That’s all I’m asking. The American Historical Association passed a resolution to condemn the Academic Bill of Rights.”
University administrators, including those at Temple, insist that existing grievance policies are effective enough to curb bias in the classroom.
“That’s false. The problem is this: students don’t know what their rights are. They don’t know when they’re being abused.”
You have claimed that administrators are not enforcing these policies. On what basis do you make this claim?
“We have enough evidence. You will find student complaints about what goes on in the classroom. The problem is that students are not made aware of what their rights are and that there is no grievance machinery set up for political discrimination. So kids just grin and bear it. [University administrators] are not enforcing these policies because they are afraid of the activists. They’re afraid of the faculty senate. The hearings are just asking about the policies. The Faculty Senate and the faculty union organized a rally denouncing this. Somebody at the rally said that this is Armstrong-McCarthy hearings. That’s the problem. No university president wants a confrontation with his Faculty Senate. You get to be a college president by making everybody happy. You don’t want a lot of angry people banging on your door. Most other people really don’t know what’s going on.”
Furthermore, university officials and professor associations argue that conservatives are exaggerating the problem. They say that by seeking government action, conservatives are forcing their ideology into the classroom. How would you respond to this?
“That is complete, paranoid fantasy. That’s not what this is about. Why doesn’t the university just put on the professor evaluation form, ‘evaluate the professor for intellectual diversity and professionalism?’ If there’s no problem, it’ll show up immediately on the forms.”
HR 177 states the need for “intellectual diversity.” Many of your opponents have stated that this would lead to the undermining of established fact and would actually deteriorate the quality of academic pursuit. How would you respond to this?
“First, they don’t understand the difference between controversy and fact. Facts are not controversial, they’re facts. Who’s undermining facts? The Iraq war, whether you think it’s a good war or a bad war, is not a fact but an opinion. The president has an opinion, Michael Moore has an opinion, we all have opinions. The university should not be a place where one side in this controversy is the only one that’s acceptable.”
If the select committee created by HR 177 determines that there is a problem in Pennsylvania, what kind of action would you recommend the legislators take in order to rectify the problem?
“I think that one of the most striking things about the hearings was that the president of
Temple basically said exactly what we want to hear. Professors should not use the classroom for bringing in controversial issues and opinions that are irrelevant to the subject. Students should not be discriminated against politically. There should be grievance machinery for students who feel that their class is being abused and students should be informed of their rights. I’m happy. Now [President Adamany] said there was no problem so I would like to see the legislature recommend that student evaluation forms have those three things. I would like to see this committee meet next year to see if students have been informed of their rights. I’m not asking for radical things. I’m not asking for right wing things. It’s the opponents of this that have made this seem like it’s a big right wing thing. I’m just asking for fairness and for educational values.”
If the committee determines that there is not a problem and legislation is not necessary, how will you continue your efforts to reform academia in Pennsylvania?
“I’m raising the issues and I’m not going to stop that no matter what the committee does. There are plenty of issues in this state and others. I will take it to other campuses. I never thought for a moment that legislatures can fix this. It wouldn’t be a good idea for legislators to get heavily involved in this. If the legislature is concerned about academic freedom, universities will respond sooner or later. Every time these university presidents go to Harrisburg looking for money and help and legislators will say, ‘We’re happy to help you but you said three years ago that you were going to tell students what the academic freedom policy of Temple is and you haven’t done that.’ If I were trying to force universities to hire conservatives, fire liberals and change curriculums, then those questions would be relevant. I’d have a big battle on my hands but I am not trying to do that.”
What are some of the steps that your organizations have taken to reform academia in other states?
“In Colorado we had a huge success, where we started legislation and the university presidents came and said, ‘We will do what you want,’ and they did. The whole state college system put an academic bill of rights into a catalogue, which informs students of their rights.”
“In Ohio we had a bill. All the big universities in Ohio said that if the legislators withdrew the legislation, they would embrace and implement the academic freedom statement of the American Council on Education. They signed a formal agreement that they would do it. That’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to make sure that President Adamany actually does what he says he’s going to do. I want to see grievance machinery at this school. I want to see students informed of their rights. I want to see that everybody knows that professors should not make political speeches in the classrooms. That’s not asking for the world and that’s why I think it can happen. It requires that legislators keep their attention on the university. Otherwise, there’s just this inertia. Nobody’s going to do anything.”
How have you been involved with Temple in the past? Have you spent any time on Temple’s campus before or observed the conduct in Temple’s classrooms?
“I’ve never been to Temple.”
How would you assess the academic situation at Temple? Do you believe that Temple professors are indoctrinating students? If so, where did you find evidence of this? Have you heard any complaints from Temple students? If so, what are some of these complaints?
“First of all, I’ve talked to students like Logan Fisher. I’ve gone to ratemyprofessor.com. I’ve talked to many more students, like Logan, who’ve gone to Temple. Why would Temple be any different from all the other universities? I have been to 300 universities. I’ve done 5,000 interviews with students and everywhere all the hands go up, so I know that this is a problem everywhere. The culture of the university has changed. In my day, professors did not use the classroom as a soapbox for their politics. So why would Temple be different?”
Since you are not a Pennsylvania resident, many members of Temple’s faculty are wondering what kind of credentials you have in order to testify at the hearings. How would you respond to them?
“They will think up anything to complain. That is ridiculous. I’ve spoken probably 11 times at Pennsylvania universities. Most of them were state universities. The reality is that the opponents of this bill have no arguments that are related to the reality, to the facts. So they make up things like it’s McCarthy, it’s a right wing plot to fire us and it’s all ridiculous. I find it somewhat depressing that professors are going off like this.”
What do you plan to say at the hearings? What kind of effect do you expect your testimony to have upon legislators as well as administration, faculty and students?
“While Temple has an academic freedom policy, it is disregarded and not enforced. Whole courses at Temple, not only individual classes, violate the basic cannons of academic freedom as defined by the AAUP.”
What do you think these hearings will accomplish? What expectations do you have for the results?
“I think that they will prompt Temple University and other Pennsylvania universities to do the right thing, which is to return to educational values, stop politics in the classrooms and to treat people who disagree with you with respect. The reason I know that we’re going to win this is because the university’s biggest issue is diversity. What does it tell all its students? To respect differences. Well how about extending this to Republicans, conservatives, and Christians? That would solve it. Disagree with somebody who supports the war in Iraq. Don’t ridicule, deride and denigrate them in the classroom. I could care less about what happens on the campus and the quad. That’s students versus students. In the classroom, it’s a whole different thing. It’s somebody with authority and power who’s got a really cushy job. These are very, very privileged people. To earn that privilege, they should be professional in the classroom.”
Do you think your movement has been successful thus far? What are your plans for the future? How do you hope to improve your efforts?
“Hugely. This is our third year, it’s a national campaign and every university knows about it. You could mention my name in any hallway in any academic institution and you would have people foaming at the mouth. And I have a staff of two. So I consider that very successful.”
“I think that this is huge step that we’re taking at Temple. I guarantee you that the Pennsylvania hearings are going to raise the visibility of this tremendously. The more people will find out about it, the more people will say that these are really good ideas. They will benefit everybody. You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story.”
“I can’t imagine a student saying ‘I only want to hear one side of an issue.’ What I am pushing is so basically American and democratic and what everybody believes in. I’m going to win this, even though I’ve been demonized and I might as well have horns and a tail.”
“These are very basic and widely accepted ideas. That is the great weakness of my opponents. Meet me on the political battlefield and you’ll see a different person. Invite me to talk about the war in Iraq and I’ll raise everybody’s hackles. I’m good at that. But that’s not what this is about. I don’t want right wing professors haranguing students with their right wing views. I don’t want any professors haranguing students. I want them to teach.”
“I am so grateful to my professors for being so professional and I want every student to have to same privilege.”
“There are a lot of professors here who are very good teachers and very good scholars. I’m talking about a minority that abuse the classroom.”
What is your definition of a true educational experience?
“I think it’s an experience that expands and develops your ability to think about things by exposing you to different points of view that you didn’t suspect existed before, looking at it from both sides and teaching you how to assess evidence. A lot of education is just that. You learn a lot of facts but the really exciting part is thinking in unorthodox ways. Everybody says you shouldn’t learn by just having somebody bang it into you and I agree. I don’t think my definition of education is much different from anyone else’s. I think the practice of education in some classes at Temple and other schools is not education. It’s more like indoctrination.”