SPEAK NO EVIL: Freedom of Speech on Campus

Friday, April 15, 2005

According to recent polls, instructors at American universities are overwhelmingly liberal: 72 percent of faculty members describe themselves as liberal, whereas only 15 percent call themselves conservative. Some critics charge that this ideological imbalance has created a code of political correctness that inhibits freedom of inquiry and expression in our universities. Is this true? And if so, what should be done, or can be done, about it? Peter Robinson speaks with David Horowitz and Graham Larkin.

Recorded on Friday, April 15, 2005

Peter Robinson: Today on Uncommon Knowledge: freedom of speech on campus...some restrictions apply.

Announcer: Funding for this program is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation.


Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today: free speech on campus. All the evidence indicates that instructors at American universities and colleges are overwhelmingly liberal. According to one recent study whereas fifteen percent of faculty members describe themselves as conservative, seventy-two percent describe themselves as liberal. Why should this matter? Well according to some critics, the ideological imbalance has created a code of political correctness that inhibits freedom of inquiry and expression. Is this true? If so, what should be done about it?

Joining us today, two guests. Graham Larkin is a professor of art history at Stanford University and an official of the American Association of University Professors. David Horowitz is president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the author of the Academic Bill of Rights.

Title: Speak No Evil

Peter Robinson: George Will writing about the brouhaha that ensued when Larry Summers, President of Harvard, suggested that there might be innate cognitive differences between men and women. "Forgive Larry Summers. He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus." Is there indeed a code of political correctness that inhibits--truly and substantially inhibits freedom of inquiry in American universities? David?

David Horowitz: Well of course. The faculty members are totalitarians who do not want to hear certain views and they dominate university faculty that if they can bring Larry Summers, a former cabinet member in the Clinton Administration and a distinguished scholar to his knees, humiliating himself, begging for his job and doing the--we're familiar with the show trials of the thirties thing of mea culpa'ing it all over, imagine what these professors do to other professors and to students.

Peter Robinson: Graham?

Graham Larkin: Well someone who spent eight years at Harvard, I found it to be very ideologically diverse and very open. So it doesn't jibe with my experience.

Peter Robinson: All right. Listen to the results of a recent study. By their own description, seventy-two percent of those teaching in American institutions of higher learning are liberal--call themselves liberal--while only fifteen percent call themselves conservative. At elite institutions, it's even more lopsided. Eighty-seven percent of faculties describe themselves as liberal and only thirteen percent as conservative. Now on the very face of it, doesn't that suggest that the conservative point of view is discriminated against in American higher education? Graham?

Graham Larkin: Well I'm deeply suspicious of any statistics that try to lump people even on the basis of their self description into just two groups--unless maybe it's male and female.

David Horowitz: Yeah, there are three hundred groups. But 290 of them are on the left and ten of them are on the right. Obviously there's diversity within the left. The fact is that when you have these radical--what happened at Harvard was the radical feminists marched out of the room and formed a lynch mob…

Peter Robinson: Against Larry Summers.

David Horowitz: …against Larry Summers and the rest of the left joined them. Now they don't happen to be a majority of the whole faculty. I would say at Harvard, the majority of the faculty are mildly, you know, are liberal to one degree.

Peter Robinson: Right.

David Horowitz: They probably all voted for Kerry. But the radicals have the ability to silence and to intimidate the rest of the faculty because they will call you a racist at the drop of a hat, or a sexist or a homophobe.

Peter Robinson: They'll get rough. They'll get rough right away. But I just don't--it just so happens that this winter and spring we've got at least three studies that I'm aware of. I didn't want to quote them all because I didn't want to laden us with statistics. But another one--it was a self described republican versus democrat and there are also some libertarians and people who call themselves greens in there and so forth. And again, you get the same result. At American universities, faculties are hugely lopsided in the democratic direction as opposed to republican direction. Now you're--are you--you're not going to suggest that those statistics are in error, are you? That they actually are balanced ideologically and politically?

Graham Larkin: Well the statistics I've seen tend to be selective on the one hand. I mean, they choose--often they don't--they're not from business schools. They're not--I mean, in this case, was it across the board the ones you're talking about? Was it engineering or business schools as well? Was it just humanities?

Peter Robinson: Well I don't have them right here but this is… One of them was a study of six professional academic associations. Then another was a study--two others as I recall…

David Horowitz: The Lichter study is across the board.

Peter Robinson: Right.

David Horowitz: First of all, universities are very conformist institutions anyway. But you live--you don't want to be called racist or sexist. You don't want to be boycotted. I was at Roger Williams University and a Democrat on the faculty actually sponsored the College Republicans and told me that that was the end of her invites to dinner parties. See you have a totalitarian mentality. Well it's ruthless; it's witch-hunting.

Peter Robinson: Let's take a look at one explanation for the ideological imbalance on college campuses.

Title: Birds of a Feather

Peter Robinson: Listen to Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist. "One answer as to how all of this came about," to the extent that there is ideological imbalance, "one answer is self selection, the same sort of self selection that leads republicans to outnumber democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average." Self-selection. It's innocent and we shouldn't worry about it. What do you make of that?

Graham Larkin: Well again I think we need to get back to this idea of left and right. I don't think we've really fully addressed that. I mean, David has said that, you know, most of--this is a radical contingent. If we can get back to Summers just for a second in which I wasn't allowed to--didn't have the chance just to speak. The Summers case, it wasn't a matter of just a few radicals. I mean, most of the university and they had a vote in which the professors came out en masse against Summers.

Peter Robinson: Okay. Let's try. What's wrong?

David Horowitz: It was about two hundred. It was a very close vote. It was a close vote of something, whatever, like 230 to 170 but there are a thousand progressives. I mean, this is the way politics works. The zealous fanatics come to meetings and they come early and they leave late and they dominate them. So the search and hiring committees are controlled by the radicals who will not allow conservatives to be hired.

Peter Robinson: All Krugman's argument that it's natural. It just happens naturally.

David Horowitz: He also said the Republican Party is governed by revelation instead of reason. This is another fanatic.

Peter Robinson: Yeah, but there's--listen…

David Horowitz: Completely self-discrediting. Yes there is self-selection. However, when you are told from the time you are a freshman that your professors and the college--the community in control of the college which has only been in control of these college since the sixties--really since the seventies--for thirty years--that they hate George Bush with a passion. Then people who are looking for careers in a university gradually internally adjust and either they leave the university or they come out liberals and go on into graduate school. If you are a, you know, if you're a…

Peter Robinson: Why are you--now answer this man--why are you…

Graham Larkin: Well I'm trying to--now David I know that you're against affirmative action. You just made that clear in what you just said

David Horowitz: I'm against racists…

Graham Larkin: …race affirmative action not--but political affirmative action seems to be okay.

David Horowitz: Who said that?

Graham Larkin: And I see--I see what you're doing is using very much the same kind of politics of resentment that led to affirmative action on racial grounds and on political grounds and ideological grounds in the eighties, you know, the very movements that conservatives came out very articulately against and now I see you're trying to do a similar thing.

Peter Robinson: Hold on, hold on, hold on.

David Horowitz: But wait--wait. I want to speak to this--just this idea of affirmative action. The first principles of my Academic Bill of Rights are you can't hire anybody on the basis of their political views. It's anti-affirmative action. It's anti-quotas. It's anti the ideological monopoly that the American Association of University Professors have established on virtually every college campus in this country.

Peter Robinson: Next: campus speech codes.

Title: Permission to Speak...Correctly

Peter Robinson: Recent years--speech codes of various kinds have been adopted at colleges and universities across the country. Now here are several specific examples. This is objectively the case. Bowden College has banned jokes and stories "experienced by others as harassing." These quotations come from the college's own materials--websites and other materials. Brown University has banned "verbal behavior that produces 'feelings of impotence, anger or disenfranchisement,' whether intentional or unintentional." Colby College has outlawed speech that causes "a vague sense of danger," or a loss of "self-esteem." All right. So we've got speech codes all over the place and lord knows, there are dozens more examples than these that I could have cited. Would you care to defend the existence of such speech codes?

Graham Larkin: I'm not crazy about speech codes. I'm really not. I really think the best solution to bad speech is more speech. I mean, that's a personal point of view.

Peter Robinson: Okay, now let me give you one--you're not crazy about speech codes. In putting together this show, our producer called a dozen or so very prominent liberal academics. Nobody wanted to defend speech codes in public. So the way it looks to this layman is that although you can't get anybody to defend speech codes in public, when they go into the faculty senate, they all vote for them. What's going on there?

Graham Larkin: I've never voted for speech codes in my life. So again, I'm--all I can give you is my point of view.

David Horowitz: The American Assoc--I conducted major campaigns against speech codes and got whole universities to drop them. The AAUP has never conducted a campaign against speech code and you have the--this is what happened at Harvard--there's a speech code. You cannot suggest that there might be difference in aptitudes between men and women even though it's a scientific fact, at Harvard if you're the President. And where is the AAUP defending the President of Harvard? They're not.

Peter Robinson: Okay. David, let me try this…

David Horowitz: They're on the other side.

Peter Robinson: Let me try this defense. Here's the defense for speech codes. The speech code that you just cited at Harvard is implicit which…

David Horowitz: It's much more effective than an explicit one. Exact--how do you challenge it?

Peter Robinson: Okay. Until only a couple of decades ago--tell me if you think this is a good defense--institutions of higher learning represented the preserves largely and especially the elite institutions. They were the preserves the students who were white, middle or upper middle class and predominantly or at many institutions, exclusively male. If colleges and universities are to educate students from all walks of life in this the twenty-first century, then they have to make room for women, for the poor, for people of color and--here's the critical point--they have to make such people feel welcome. And yeah, they have to put limits on what people may or may not say to make this new influx of--relatively new, over the last couple of decades--feel welcome. Reasonable?

David Horowitz: Well of course. It sounds reasonable but it's completely unreasonable in the practice. First of all, it presumes that Stanford or Berkeley and I happened to have been there in 1960, were racist institutions, which is idiotic.

Peter Robinson: You were at Berkeley in '60?

David Horowitz: I was at Berkeley, yes. This welcome stuff, I will tell you exactly how it works. If somebody like myself ties to print an ad on a college paper saying 150 years after the fact, paying reparations to the remote descendants of former slaves might be a bad idea. Forty of the papers shut that down and where there were…

Peter Robinson: You tried to take ads in student newspapers that…

David Horowitz: Seventy across the country.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

David Horowitz: And where the--it was printed, there were near riots and just under this thing. It makes us feel unwelcome. It infantilizes these, you know, the people who…

Peter Robinson: Black students or…

David Horowitz: Absolutely. They couldn't answer the ad.

Peter Robinson: Go ahead, Graham.

Peter Robinson: David, let him talk. Go ahead.

Graham Larkin: I believe--I think David that the legislation that you're proposing is an alternative to this purported problem infantilizes. SB5 in California says that students should not take advantage of the immaturity of their students and so on and so on.

Peter Robinson: We turn now to David Horowitz' Academic Bill of Rights...

Title: It's Academic

Peter Robinson: David Horowitz' proposed Academic Bill of Rights. Here are some of the central provisions. Hiring, firing, promoting and granting tenure shall be on the basis of performance, not on the basis of political or religious beliefs. Tenure: search and hiring committees will be recorded and available to duly authorized authorities empowered to inquire into the integrity of the process. Students will be graded on their work, not their political beliefs or religion. Selection of speakers and other student activities will observe the principles of academic freedom and promote intellectual balance. Academic institutions and professional societies should maintain a posture of organizational neutrality. Two questions here. The second question is whether all of this ought to be mandated by state governments. You've got this--various versions of this are--have been introduced in how many state legislatures?

David Horowitz: About twenty but they're only because the AAUP wouldn't answer the phone. Okay. I wanted…

Peter Robinson: The second question…whether this should be adopted and mandated by state legislatures. The first question is in principle, do you have an objection to any one of those points in David's Academic Bill of Rights?

Graham Larkin: Those points on the whole are part of what I described to Senator Morrow in a debate a few weeks ago as the mom and apple pie part of the Academic Bill of Rights and the Student Bill of Rights which are actually quite sanguine. And…

Peter Robinson: No problem with anything that I've stated.

Graham Larkin: I think, in general, those all sounded like they're part of sanguine…

Peter Robinson: Okay, what are the nasty bits of his Academic Bill of Rights?

Graham Larkin: The nasty bits and the ones that affect--I really think affect the learning process the most--are the restraints on curriculum. It says that, you know, professors have to--I mean, some of the language I literally can't even understand. I mean, it says you have to…

Peter Robinson: There's the author. Go ahead and ask him.

Graham Larkin: It says you have to attest to the instability of all truths when putting together your curriculum and then you have to get dissenting opinions in. And sometimes it's not about that. You know, if I'm teaching a course on printmaking, if I'm teaching a course that says, you know, this is--here's a--I teach Art History and so if I'm saying, you know, here's how you make a wood cut. Here's how you make a lithograph. Here's how you make an etching…

Peter Robinson: Purely techniques.

Graham Larkin: Yeah. And it's--sometimes they're just informational. I don't want to have partisan politics in that. I don't want to have dissenting views. I don't want to have it turn into, you know, handing in poems.

David Horowitz: This is such a caricature. What it says is since the assumption of our democracy even is that there is an uncertainty, there's areas of opinion. There's an uncertainty to truth. Nobody has a monopoly of truth. That's why we have multi party systems. Otherwise we'd have one party with the truth. Since that's the case, in areas where there are--opinion--it's a matter of opinion--professors have a responsibility to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion on the matter. It's just basic, simple common sense.

Graham Larkin: I agree that it's common sense. I totally agree that one should have--that one should make people aware. I don't think that there's legislation saying that that should happen in every curriculum, in every case.

David Horowitz: Look we have withdrawn the legislation in Colorado when the universities said we'll do it.

Peter Robinson: Hold on. Tell us that story. That's a very important story.

David Horowitz: In Colorado, we passed it through the education comm--first I was blown off. I visited with Elizabeth Hoffman who's now no longer the head of…

Peter Robinson: Blown off by?

David Horowitz: Elizabeth Hoffman, the President of Ward Churchill's University. I told her…

Peter Robinson: University of Colorado.

David Horowitz: I told her she had a brewing problem and she said no we don't. We went to the legislature. We got it by--through the education committee. Immediately Elizabeth Hoffman and the Presidents of the other schools said will you withdraw the legislation if we put these guidelines in place? And we said absolutely. It was a memorandum of understanding.

Peter Robinson: Take this University of Colorado instance. Is that a happy story?

Graham Larkin: No, it's not a happy story.

Peter Robinson: You'd push it--he's pushing them around. Why is that an unhappy story?

Graham Larkin: I certainly think he has a right to try to push through whatever legislations he wants. I completely respect that. I just--but I don't--you know, as far as I'm concerned, from the point of view of the professors and the students, if those kind of constraints are being put on by whoever, it doesn't really matter who it is, whether it's--and one of the troubling things is that there's no plan for implementation in this. I mean, it's just like yeah someone's going to be…

Peter Robinson: I just want to know your objection. You don't object to these points in principle.

Graham Larkin: Well most of the ones you cited to the best of my memory sound fine. And that's--like I say, that's the mom and apple pie part. And then there's the curriculum part. For instance, which…

Peter Robinson: Again, let me go back to University of Colorado and just ask you about that procedure. He gets the legislature involved. Does that make you nervous in and of itself? Or do you say wait a minute, the University of Colorado exists on the backs of the taxpayers of Colorado? It's perfectly legitimate for the people's representatives to state what they'd like to go on at the university.

Graham Larkin: Yeah, it really scares me, the idea of getting legislators involved. That's a real problem.

Peter Robinson: Even at a state university?

David Horowitz: Peter, the bottom line is…

Peter Robinson: Hold on for--sip some coffee for a second. Let me talk to this man for two minutes here. What is the AAUP doing to address at least the public perception of imbalance?

Graham Larkin: The AAUP has guidelines in place about professorial conduct, about the importance of sticking to the curriculum, about the impropriety of getting on a soapbox and, you know, getting away from the curriculum. And they're very, very good guidelines and a lot of universities have instituted them and I think it's important for them to institute them and to enforce them as well. I think it's important.

Peter Robinson: Let me ask David Horowitz if he really wants the government intruding into ideological issues on college campuses.

Title: Cry Me A River

Peter Robinson: Columbia professor of journalism Todd Gitlin about you. "Do the crusaders"--meaning David Horowitz and a few others but meaning principally you--"do the crusaders realize how patronizing they sound and how reckless? Should lawmakers who bean count the political loyalties of the faculties really serve as the proper judges of intellectual integrity? Whatever happened to small government?"

David Horowitz: Of course, the lawmakers are not--here's the problem. In Ohio, the Ohio State faculty handbook has most of my bill of rights right there as responsibilities of professors. The administra--the faculty is obviously not responding or adhering to it and we can go chapter and verse. The administration is intimidated for the same reason that Larry Summers--I mean, they're not national figures like Larry Summers. So the legislature has a fiduciary responsibility to say to the administrators to just weigh in and give them some weight vis-à-vis this, you know, these recalcitrant faculty members, the radicals. I've talked to the legislators in Ohio. They'd be perfectly willing to make the same kind of deals in Colorado. Get on the record, the university administration saying yeah, we're going to enforce our rules and better, we're going to make students aware that professors are not supposed to be showing Fahrenheit 911 in biology classes on the eve of elections as happened. That's all it's about. It's just…

Graham Larkin: That's not all it's about.

David Horowitz: It's getting…

Graham Larkin: That's not all it's about.

David Horowitz: …them to behave. What has been the AAU response? The AAUP had posted on its website a vicious, McCarthyite smear of me, picked up every piece of garbage on the internet and--where there's plenty.

Graham Larkin: Are you against McCarthyite smears Mr. Horowitz?

David Horowitz: I am totally against vicious McCarthyite smears.

Peter Robinson: Graham, as David presents the case, he's going to legislatures as a last resort. He's tried the universities. The faculty is not responding. The administrations are, in many cases, too intimidated to hold the faculty to account. In a democracy, isn't it perfectly natural to go to the people and their representatives? Isn't that the proper recourse?

Graham Larkin: I don't like this big government approach of having the legislators come in and solve the purported problems of the university.

David Horowitz: That's why I object to you calling them liberals because they hate democracy. This is what democracy is.

Peter Robinson: Stefan Beck, graduate--recent graduate of Dartmouth where he was editor of the mother of all conservative campus newspapers, Dartmouth Review. He writes the campus conservatives need to toughen up, "folks meet the crybabies." In other words, says this recent Dartmouth grad who is a thorough going conservative, spending four years deepening their thinking and honing their polemical skills on liberal campuses does conservative students good.

David Horowitz: I agree. I think it does liberal students really bad. Sure, if you have very strong ties to, you know, the conservative culture, National Review, Young Americans Foundation and so forth, these--getting bullied by leftists will make you tough. Ninety percent of the students--that's not going to happen with.

Peter Robinson: Graham, go ahead.

Graham Larkin: I think the Dartmouth student is right. I think this Dartmouth conservative is right to say that it strengthens--that it strengthened him. A lot of students--just the other--yesterday I think it was or the day before--a student in Florida--very conservative student--came out and said the same thing. He said that there actually is open discourse. He said that--and that he really think--he's against the crybabies too.

Peter Robinson: Finally, predictions on the future of David's Academic Bill of Rights.

Title: Freedom on the March?

Peter Robinson: The Academic Bill of Rights has been enacted in zero state legislatures although introduced in about twenty.

David Horowitz: Yeah. Well you have--people have to understand legislatures only meet in the spring. Usually--some of them only meet for forty weeks…

Peter Robinson: Five years from now, prediction--five years from now, how many state legislatures will actually have enacted David Horowitz' Academic Bill of Rights? Take a guess.

Graham Larkin: I think very few.

Peter Robinson: You don't see momentum in their direction?

Graham Larkin: I really don't. And, in fact, it's been very encouraging recently especially in light of for instance, the Schiavo, you know…

Peter Robinson: How does that play into it?

Graham Larkin: …thing in Florida. Well it's about the government coming into people's lives and mandating such things. In this case…

Peter Robinson: How many five years from now?

David Horowitz: What's going to happen is this battle will go on. And my main agenda has never been legislation. As I told you…

Peter Robinson: You want the University of Colorado experience?

David Horowitz: I want the universities to change. I don't want them to become under the legislatures. The legislator is just a wake up. When I--what my agenda is is to transform a whole student generation to be active in its own interest, including liberal students because when liberal students going to these schools, they never hear the conservative case. And they're getting--it's the dumbing down of the political…

Graham Larkin: The students have come out en masse against the Academic Bill of Rights. Student organizations all over the country have come out…

Peter Robinson: Last question.

Graham Larkin: …vehemently against it. So let them decide for themselves, David. Don't tell them what to do.

Peter Robinson: Question about--we talked about--question about faculties and generational change at these universities. The ratio--I'm quoting another study now, "The ratio of Democrats to Republicans in humanities faculties is today roughly seven to one according to several surveys. A decade from now, will that ratio have changed?

Graham Larkin: Well you know how I feel about these--about these surveys. I mean…I'd like to see the details of this survey and I have…

Peter Robinson: Generational change, is it coming in faculties?

Graham Larkin: In what sense?

Peter Robinson: Ideological sense.

Graham Larkin: Yes, of course, things are going to change ideologically. I don't think it's a simple move from a left to right spectrum or vice versa.

Peter Robinson: David, what do you think?

David Horowitz: We know the answer. Dan Klein is a professor of economics at Santa Clara and conducted the study and it was done with interviews, also studied Berkeley and Stanford where we are, and showed that among junior professors--it's seven to one among all professors--left over conservative. Among junior professors, associates and assistants, it's thirty to one.

Peter Robinson: So it's getting worse.

David Horowitz: There is a blacklist in place. It's been in place for thirty years and until that blacklist is cracked and it's a very complicated iss--way to do it…

Graham Larkin: So the government's got to come in and fix it with these control and…

David Horowitz: You're the guys who love the government…

Graham Larkin: Someone's got to fix it with speech. No I don't want--I'm trying to take the government out, David. You're the one who's legislating in twenty states. I'm keeping the government out. You're putting them in.

David Horowitz: I'm not going to lay out my plan here but the basic plan--the basic idea is people have to become aware of the problem. And they have to get up and fight.

Peter Robinson: Graham Larkin, David Horowitz, thank you very much.

Peter Robinson: I'm Peter Robinson for Uncommon Knowledge. Thanks for joining us.