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DH: As I explained throughout my book, the problem of indoctrination on college campuses is a failure of universities to enforce the very principles of academic freedom and academic professionalism that they claim to honor. In my book I describe a case at Penn State, which has the best academic freedom policy in the nation, and is only one of a handful of universities that even recognize a student’s right not to be indoctrinated. I advised a student named A.J. Fluehr through the Penn State grievance process and won a ruling from Dean Susan Welch that a professor in the communications department had infringed the First Amendment rights of Mr. Fluehr, in effect requiring him to subscribe to the instructor’s point of view. I believe there have been several cases of successful complaints regarding students’ academic freedom at Temple, which is the only other Pennsylvania University to recognize such rights.
JKW: You criticize the College of DuPage trustees for going too far in response to their concerns about too many liberal speakers on campus, and you cite a forum where three speakers were critical of Israel and claim that the trustees could “employ the language of the [American Council on Education] to require that DuPage programs support intellectual pluralism.”(211) Does that mean that you think trustees should be able to ban a forum on campus if it doesn’t include an opposing point of view? And isn’t that a strange attitude considering that the AAUP defended you when St. Louis University banned you from speaking for that very reason?
DH: No, I don’t think trustees should be allowed to ban a forum they disagree with. Supporting intellectual pluralism means just that: supporting ideas not banning them. I think it’s deplorable that panels are called “academic” when they are entirely one-sided, but I have never called for banning them. I have never supported opinion bans and I am sorry that the AAUP feels it necessary to keep suggesting that I do. Perhaps this is because the AAUP can’t handle the intellectual argument I have actually put forward. I have publicly praised the AAUP’s stance in defense of free speech at St. Louis University much as I have deplored the AAUP’s stance against academic freedom at DuPage and elsewhere.
JKW: You attack the Illinois AAUP’s letter to the DuPage trustees expressing concern about a ban on “opinion” discrimination: “In the AAUP’s view, apparently, a student failing to grasp the ‘correct opinion’ about ‘reality’ should expect to receive a failing grade. This was about as succinct a definition of indoctrination as one could ask for—imposing a matter of opinion as though it were a statement of fact.”(213) But the problem is that anyone can claim that a statement of fact is simply a matter of opinion and then demand the right not to be discriminated against, such as claiming that evolution is an opinion and creationism must receive the same grade in a biology class. How do you easily distinguish between facts and opinions? And do you think that adding “opinion discrimination” to anti-discrimination laws and rules is a good idea?
DH: Anyone can claim anything. That doesn’t mean we can’t distinguish opinion from fact, even if there are gray areas where making the distinction may not be so easy. The theory of evolution is a theory but the scientific community has a way of establishing theories via the assembling of compelling evidence. It is an established fact – not an opinion –that the universe is not 6,000 years old as creationists maintain. The theory of “intelligent design” is not accepted as a scientific fact by the scientific community. This does not mean it should not be discussed but it does mean that in the view of the biological sciences it is an opinion not a fact.
I never suggested that we add “opinion discrimination” to anti-discrimination laws. I have said that instructors should not present their opinions as scientific facts, which means that they should make students aware of the existence of divergent opinions (and not necessarily all such opinions) in a fair-minded manner, and should assign students texts and materials, which would allow them to compare opinions and make up their minds for themselves. I believe this is precisely what the AAUP’s 1915 “Declaration on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure” both states and intends.
JKW: You wonder, “Why had the AAUP and the faculty unions eschewed a path of negotiation and compromise and decided to conduct a political war instead?”(217) Actually, didn’t you start the political war by proposing legislation about the Academic Bill of Rights before you ever contacted the AAUP and faculty unions? And why exactly should the AAUP compromise academic freedom at all?
DH: No I didn’t. I first approached the AAUP – that is, before I published the Academic Bill of Rights or approached any legislator. I vetted it with Michael Berube, Todd Gitlin, Eugene Volokh, Alan Kors and Stanley Fish – and removed any wording that was unacceptable to any one of them. The AAUP met my overtures with silence. More to the point, as I indicated in my book, no one in the AAUP has ever contacted me since its publication or suggested changes or offered to engage in a constructive dialogue about these issues. I, on the other hand, have made several efforts to start such a discussion with Cary Nelson, Robert Post, Roger Bowen, Michael Berube and William Scheuerman and have been rebuffed by all of them.
I have never asked the AAUP to compromise academic freedom principles. My Academic Bill of Rights is entirely composed of the academic freedom principles laid down in the 1915 Declaration. The AAUP’s responses to my bill have consisted of gross misrepresentations (claiming that I want to fire faculty liberals, require the hiring of Nazis, force professors to teach intelligent design or holocaust denial, and reject the idea that there is such a thing as provable “knowledge”). As I document extensively in my book, the AAUP has acted in bad faith throughout this campaign. If they are prepared now to sit down in good faith and undertake a serious discussion of these issues, I am more than ready to do so.
Thank you for taking the time to read my book and come up with these questions. I will take it as a testament to the accuracy of my text that these are the most important quarrels you have with what I have written. If the AAUP had been as forthcoming from their side as you have we would be much further advanced in addressing the problem of classroom indoctrination than we are.
John K. Wilson: I disagree with much of what Horowitz says, but I’ll ignore some of his statements (such as his failure to explain the whole race angle with the University of Chicago speech) to focus on what’s most important.
In his book, Horowitz explains how he encourages a Penn State student to file an official complaint against a class in which An Inconvenient Truth was shown. When an administrator rejects the idea that the movie violates Penn State’s ban on indoctrination, Horowitz claims otherwise, since the movie makes “claims that only climatologists or scientists in related fields could assess, not a professor of English literature. Nor were they pertinent to a class devoted to teaching students how to write papers in social science.”(194)
If Horowitz didn’t want to ban An Inconvenient Truth from social science classes, why was he supporting a complaint to do exactly that?
Horowitz claims that he is embarrassed by this statement in the Students for Academic Freedom handbook about supporting efforts to write the Academic Bill of Rights and has never said anything like it in seven years. Yet in the Mission and Strategy of the group that Horowitz admits to personally writing is this line: “Students for Academic Freedom clubs at public universities will appeal to governors, state legislators, boards of trustees and other appropriate officials and bodies to write The Academic Bill of Rights into educational policy and law.”
That’s exactly what Horowitz denies doing: seeking to have the Academic Bill of Rights written into the law. And it makes his claim that “ I have never sponsored legislative measures that would be statutory” seem quite ridiculous.
Horowitz claims a visiting professor “is brought to a university to provide a fresh or unrepresented perspective or experience, and is not brought in as a permanent member of the faculty.”
But a visiting professor is still a faculty job, and like any other faculty job the hiring should not be based on ideology. I’m sure if a college banned conservatives from being hired as visiting professors it would cause Horowitz to speak out about it.
Horowitz’s assertion that “ most students go through four years of a university education without ever encountering a conservative adult” is ridiculous. But that fact that he doesn’t regard college students as “adults” says a lot about his point of view.
Horowitz writes, “Do I need to burden my text to provide chapter and verse of specific cases to make this point?” Yes, you do actually need to prove your claims. And while I also doubt this new claim that the federal government has a “profound effect” on college hiring, that wasn’t your claim. Your claim was that “Contracts had been signed which allowed government officials to decide whom universities could hire, what salaries they could pay, who they could admit as students to their institutions, and even what kind of statements teachers could make in the classroom.” Prove it. The fact that Dershowitz got so paranoid that he voluntarily started taping his lectures is not proof that government bureaucracies control the hiring, salaries, admissions, and classroom statements of colleges. It’s not even the slightest bit of evidence.
David Horowitz responds: I answered your first several points in the original interview. Re-read my answers. As for the evidence of a contract issue, every university that receives federal funds agrees to adhere to the discriminatory practices required by the EEOC in the name of political correctness. These practices — racial preferences for designated racial groups and gender preferences for females — obviously affects hiring decisions.
John K. Wilson: I don’t agree that your earlier responses answered my points. I also don’t think that federal nondiscrimination laws really affect hiring decisions (and not any differently than all employers are affected), since they do not require (and in fact ban) racial preferences.
Horowitz: I am at a loss as to how to reply to someone who maintains that government enforced racial preferences are not racial preferences. I think we’ve reached the end of the line here.
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