David Horowitz: Bruin Alumni Association ... How Not to Wage a Campus Campaign

Roundup: Talking About History

An organization calling itself the Bruin Alumni Association has been getting a lot of press lately, almost all of it bad. And deservedly so. Several of its conservative board members, James Rogan, Stephan Thernstrom, Manny Klauser and Jascha Kessler have already resigned. We applaud them for doing so, and hope they will be followed by others.

The Bruin Alumni Association is the brainchild of Andrew Jones, a UCLA graduate who briefly worked for the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and was fired for unethical behavior.

Unethical behavior continues to be a trademark of Jones' career. The bad publicity he has recently received is a consequence of the strategies he has chosen; Most centrally, his decision to pay students to target leftwing professors whom he pillories with crude epithets like "the dirty thirty." UCLA is also considering suing Jones for illegally lifting its logo and flying his organization under false colors. The Center is considering its own suit since Jones lifted our donor list to raise money for his organization while concealing the fact that the Center had dissociated itself from him.

Naturally, the Pavlovian left is in a dither, decrying the "McCarthyism" of Jones' tactics, which is their normal excuse for an argument. By simply googling the name of any prominent conservative one can find hundreds of thousands, even millions of instances of leftwing McCarthyism -- tarring conservatives with their alleged associations from the past to take one example. Like belonging to an innocuous Princeton club twenty-two years ago that can be deceptively linked to racism by unscrupulous alcoholics. If the balance of power in Washington were a tad different, moreover, such a youthful "mistake" could cost you a Supreme Court seat.

What's wrong the Bruin Alumni Association campaign is that it is designed to purge the university of leftist ideas. This is a bad educational idea. Any university worthy of the name will have professors with leftist ideas on its faculty, and should have. Just as it should have professors with conservative ideas on its faculty. You can't get a good education, if they're only telling you half the story. That is why the principle of intellectual diversity is the center of the campaign for an Academic Bil of Rights, which we at the Center are waging.

We do not care whether a professor is a liberal or a conservative. We care that a professor is professional; that he or she does not indoctrinate their students but educates them. This means exposing them "to the spectrum of significant scholarly opinion" as the Academic Bill of Rights phrases it. It also means that professors do not introduce irrelevant issues into classrooms where they don't belong -- like their passions over the war in Iraq in courses on English literature, or any subject that is not the war in Iraq. Even in such classes professors should not be passionate advocates of one side of a controversy unless they make clear to their students that these are opinions, not incontrovertible truths, and that students will suffer no consequences for disagreeing with their instructors.

An academic freedom campaign worthy of the name is about process, not the substantive viewpoints of professors. It's about what goes on in the classroom, not what professors do when they exercise their citizen rights.

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