By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Last year, David Horowitz led a political assault on American universities when the 1960s radical-turned-Republican strategist claimed campuses are little more than "an ideological subsidiary of the Democratic Party and the far side of the political left." According to Horowitz, universities are controlled by "hard leftists" whose mission is not education but "the suppression of conservative ideas." These conspirators are "anti-American" college administrators and professors who, he says, "subvert society" by systematically shielding students from conservative lecturers. If Horowitz is right, we've stumbled on a fantastic mystery: Why did the conspirators allow Horowitz to speak, for instance, at 23 U.S. colleges in the spring of 2002? At more than 200 campuses in the past decade?
Not surprisingly, Horowitz has not addressed the contradiction. He has been busy building his case that colleges are the "last bastion of the left." In a September 2002 online article, "Wake Up America," he featured Vanderbilt University in Nashville as the epitome of liberal bias. His evidence?
•After he spoke at the college in 2002, Vanderbilt officials did not give him backslaps and hugs, "although I am a nationally known public figure[,] . . . Fox News commentator [and] one of America's leading 100 intellectuals." It's possible, however, the officials left the speech wildly amused. Belying his claimed desire for "diversity . . . of ideas" on campuses, Horowitz—author of How to Beat the Democrats—had demanded the school select speakers who mirror the political sentiments of Tennessee's majority political party, the Republicans.
•Vanderbilt helps fund Hispanic, African-American and Asian student groups—which, Horowitz said without offering proof, are all "left-wing." He asserts this as unassailable fact because of "my inquiries" and "my own broad range of experience" in life. Note the lack of specificity.
•As "agents of an adversary culture at war" with society, Vanderbilt officials block student access to a broad range of opinion. A university media spokeswoman laughed at this claim. She noted that in recent years Horowitz has spoken at the university, as have former Nixon aide (and Comedy Central TV host) Ben Stein, Republican Party strategist Mary Matlin, General Barry McCaffrey, General Norman Schwarzkopf, the head of the New York Stock Exchange and a member of the Federal Reserve. "I'd hardly accuse any of them of being anti-establishment," the official said. "The students select who they want to hear, and it's usually a mix of political ideologies. Sorry if that fact doesn't fit with Mr. Horowitz's theory."
Ironically, Horowitz's theory is being hailed not just at Republican Party headquarters and Richard Mellon Scaiffe-funded conservative think tanks but on some college campuses. On April 24, for instance, Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) officials held a two-hour "town hall" meeting on "The Marginalization of the Conservative Voice." The title was not presented as a question because the school's conservative professors and students had already decided they are marginalized—not just on campus, but also in the community at large. It's a remarkable claim to make in the most Republican-controlled county in California.
Like Horowitz's argument, the taxpayer-funded town-hall meeting was full of fact-free assertions, questionable generalizations, fearmongering and blatant partisan campaigning. A more accurate title would have been "Why You Should Join the Republican Party and Watch Fox News."
Graduate student Wendy Harrison opened the meeting by noting the importance of seeking free expression and debate on campus, but she did not explain why the entire, five-member panel was comprised of self-described Republicans who believe they are victims of the liberal conspiracy. As evidence that campus liberals don't want a "land of academia for all types of expression," Harrison said only that she was not allowed to sing a song about Jesus Christ when she was in the second grade. The audience moaned sympathetically.
Next was Dr. Jack W. Bedell, a sociology professor who offered no evidence that campus liberals have, as he put it, successfully organized "the triumph of ideology over inquiry and the triumph of ideology over facts and truth." According to Bedell, liberal domination is so thorough and so savage at CSUF that conservative professors hide their beliefs. "I understand there were several faculty members who were asked to be on this panel," he said. "They weren't chicken. They just didn't want the hassle by coming and speaking on this subject." In the audience, a visibly disturbed Gil Ferguson, former Republican state assemblyman from Newport Beach, and his wife looked at each other and shook their heads.
Dr. Rick D. Pullen, the conservative dean of the university's College of Communications, contended that conservatives are "not tolerated" on campus but skipped any evidence, instead offering a lengthy discussion of John Milton and Benjamin Franklin. Five minutes later, he returned to his thesis. "We all know that universities across this land have a liberal leaning," and liberals are against "robust and open debate," he said. You might have expected a college dean and professor with more than two decades' experience to provide convincing proof of his point. He is, after all, working among the so-called liberal conspirators.
But Pullen had none. Instead, he said his own kids "felt" there had been a liberal bias when they attended college. "I can personally point to multiple times when my children received less-than-welcomed responses to their conservative views expressed in class or in papers," he said without naming a single incident. "It is hard for me to accept the fact that they felt intimidated and fearful and reluctant to express their beliefs for fear of sarcastic comments, a lesser grade or even an argumentative response from a professor. . . . It is this subtle censorship that has me concerned today. I personally have endured ribbing from my colleagues because I voted for George W. Bush."