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Mitchell details political and religious hostility from his earliest days at the University of Colorado. Mitchell recounts that in his very first class, one of his colleagues told the class that he would put evangelical Christians in concentration camps if had his way. When Mitchell quoted scholar Thomas Sowell in expressing dissent over a director of a diversity program’s advocacy of affirmative action, the director then berated the history professor as a racist. Sowell, like two of Mitchell’s adopted children, are African American. The AAUP document notes that colleagues raised unsubstantiated charges of anti-Semitism, homophobia, and sexism, and barred the Christian academic from teaching on religion. Mitchell now teaches at Colorado Christian University, where his faith is a more explicit part of his pedagogy. “As a follower of Jesus Christ, it is not possible for me to separate [faith and learning],” Mitchell explains on his new school’s website. “When Christ becomes the Lord of your life, He merges your discipline with your walk with Him.”
Undermining the message for some, providing balance for others, the AAUP also includes in its indictment of CU Ward Churchill, the controversial former chairman of CU’s ethnic studies department, who was fired after claiming that the 9/11 terrorists acted with “patience and restraint” and calling their World Trade Center victims “little Eichmanns.” Just as Mitchell’s status as an untenured adjunct professor may complicate the report’s message, Churchill’s plagiarism and false claims of Native American heritage complicate its indictment of the university on the grounds of academic freedom.
This controversy over faculty bias isn’t the first to envelope the University of Colorado. A 1990s Rocky Mountain News survey of selected departments at the school’s Boulder campus found a 31-1 Democrat-Republican imbalance. A subsequent survey of various departments in the liberal arts and the social sciences by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture revealed that 94 percent of those CU-Boulder faculty members had registered as Democrats.
“If [economics professor] Ann Carlos and the History Department at CU had merely said, ‘We recommend Mitchell not be re-hired because we don’t like his opinions,’ it’s doubtful that [college of arts and sciences] Dean [Todd] Gleeson would have concurred,” the AAUP investigation concludes. “What they did instead was contrive a case against him, as documented in this report. Anyone who values the free exchange of ideas should be disturbed.”
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