Conservative is the new black: Appendix (Colorado)

This isn’t finished and probably won’t be for a while. But it includes quite a bit of the legislative part of the story. See Part I, Part II.
Here’s what happened in Colorado, first in the version at Horowitz’s website:
Last June, David Horowitz visited Colorado and suggested to lawmakers that an Academic Bill of Rights was needed to protect students from faculty abuses. In the months that followed, Students for Academic Freedom Clubs were formed across the state and began gathering evidence of these abuses.
Colorado Senate President John Andrews then sent a letter to every college president in the state asking them to provide statements describing their protections for students and detailing any problems on their campuses.
At the same time, he convened an ad hoc legislative committee to hear from students and faculty members about whether academic freedom is adequately being protected on state-supported colleges and universities. The hearings were held on December 18.
Despite the fact that the hearings took place when most universities were in the midst of final exams, more than 30 students showed up to testify. Congregating on the third floor committee room in the Colorado State Capitol, they were joined by media representatives, college administrators, legislators, and members of the public at large.
In June of 2003, Horowitz met with Republican leaders in Colorado, including the Governor, Bill Owens, Sen. Andrews,and Tim Foster, who was then Executive Director of the Colorado Commision on Higher Education (a body that oversees the entire Colorado system) (). In September () and October, Horowitz spoke at several campuses in Colorado. The website of the Republican majority in the Colorado Senate echoed Andrews’ call (). Meanwhile, with the help of the Independence Institute, a local outfit backed by the Coors family, students at various campuses, especially Metro State in Denver, gathered complaints and filed grievances (). The testimony of the students at the hearing was distributed, in a version that included the names of some of the people accused of violating the rights of conservative students, by the Institute.
The hearing and the bills
The Senate hearing was held on 18 Dec 2003, after several months of “fact-finding” by Andrews, exchanges between Andrews and the editors of various newspapers, and angry responses on the part of many faculty and students () A look at the transcript of the hearing already suggests that it was a set-up.
Senator John Andrews: [After opening remarks] …The question before us this morning is, is the policy working? The policy is certainly there, not just at the University of Colorado but at all of our institutions. But then is the policy working? And that’s why we have invited a number of individuals to make presentations this morning, and we will, as I say, take time for others who have come today without having been scheduled as presenters, if we have time we will hear from you. If we don’t have time, I’ll just emphasize that when and if there is legislation proposed on this matter, that hearings on that legislation will be without time limit and without any of the panel arrangement that we have today and where all from the public who wish to speak on the bill, if there is a bill, will certainly have that opportunity.
Let me ask members of the committee to introduce themselves, and then we will proceed to hear from our presenters—Senator Gordon?
Senator Ken Gordon: Thank you President Andrews. I’m covering I guess for Terry Phillips, who couldn’t make it, and I wasn’t aware of this meeting until I got here just now, I mean today. And I see that there are, looks like, about sixteen people already signed up, and I was wondering how one went about, or how it got arranged that these are the people that were going to testify?
Senator Andrews: At my initiative, and having convened and being the chair of the committee, I cast out a net asking for individuals who had concerns to express, and some larger number than this were identified, and then I first asked and then it narrowed down to these individuals, and even in the last few minutes we have had some say they’ve decided that they would rather not speak this morning, and that opened up time for others who hadn’t been invited to speak. But by the nature of the ad hoc hearing process, which we have used a couple of times already this fall, we found that it focuses the inquiry if we can go out and find people that we know to have pertinent—relevant material to present, and invite them to come to present, but not to the exclusion of others. Yes?
Senator Gordon: I mean it just it seems as if you asked—if you put out a net asking for people that have concerns, and were going to criticize the universities based on those concerns, I’m just wondering if the universities had a chance to bring people in to present the other side, and I guess we’ll see as it goes along.
An ad hoc hearing, scheduled a week in advance () while the Legislature is out of session, witnesses invited by the Chair (and whose testimony was circulated in written form at the hearing by a Coors family foundation)… “Focused” is not quite the word that comes to mind.
Representative Alice Madden: When I was invited to this, I guess, about a week ago, I raised my concerns to President Andrews via email, and asked him not to be offended, and we joked about that. It will be hard to offend him about this; but I wanted to be honest about the apprehension I had about his approach to this issue and I think it is important that I share these concerns because I think there is kind of a questionable premise upon which this whole thing started and by mimicking the structure of a legislative committee, I think that we are doing the public a disservice and we are doing the people picked to participate here today a disservice.
Because when we have an ad hoc committee or an interim committee, we usually start off with some sort of neutral presentation of facts or legislative council. We don’t have that today. I would love to have seen the responses to President Andrews’ requests to the universities but I was unavailable today, although I do have a copy of CU’s and I am going to try to look at it while we address it here today. But I think, more importantly, committees hear from a wide variety of people, we get individuals, with you can imagine, every differing type of view there is on a particular subject and I think that that is extremely important and not that the stories that we are going to hear today are not important, they are, but it is really impossible for us to make an informed decision on any matter unless there is a fair and balanced approach, so that we can hear all sides. I think that no one wants to make a decision when they are working in a vacuum.
It would have been interesting to hear from an accused professor. It would have been interesting to hear it from a political student who is perhaps sitting in a classroom, and could say “yes, this professor did seem to be picking on this student”, or no, this student really seems to like the sound of his/her own voice and we all wanted him to be quiet, or perhaps this professor has a personality of Judge Judy and attacks everybody. I mean, there are lots of different things we could have heard, but we aren’t going to hear that today, and I think that, unfortunately is a little bit by design. This is a multifaceted issue and again, I think it’s a disservice to those of you who want to tell your story and those of us who want to hear the whole story. And I would also have to admit I was little somewhat skeptical because I know this started with David Horowitz’ proposition that there are too many liberals in academia. I have read and listened to Mr. Horowitz’ personal opinions on this. I think in Colorado’s case, he was off the mark. [ … ]
Of the named panelists, thirteen were conservative, three not () The testimony ranged from more or less vague complaints about feeling intimidated simply because there weren’t many like-minded students or faculty around, to specific instances of pulpit-pounding—instances that I would agree were abuses of the lecturer’s position, not because they were one-sided (when is the expression of an opinion, as opposed to argumentative deliberation, not “one-sided”?) but because they were off-topic. That particular failing is already addressed in the AAUP Statement of Principles of 1940 ()
A later item at Horowitz’s website attaches the headline “Victory” to an AP report:
Colorado lawmakers today endorsed a bill aimed at protecting the rights of conservative students on Colorado campuses, spurred on by a nasty confrontation between a student who backs the plan and a professor who doesn't.
The bill in question was the House counterpart of Andrews’ proposal, introduced in February and accompanied by further hearings (). It was withdrawn in March after state institutions in Colorado endorsed a “memorandum of understanding” on the protection of political diversity ().
Rep. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) announced at a March 18 press conference that he was withdrawing HB 1315, a bill intended to protect the political views of students, because he had reached an agreement with several college presidents, including CU President Betsy Hoffman.
A memorandum of understanding, endorsed by Hoffman and three other higher education presidents, states that the institutions will review their student rights and campus grievance procedures “to ensure that political diversity is explicitly recognized and protected.” Each institution also will make sure those rights and procedures are “adequately publicized,” and institutions will work with student leaders to make sure that student activity fees meet the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin v. Southworth.
Mitchell said HB 1315 sparked serious discussion and efforts to protect the rights of students who are being penalized for their political opinions (). But protecting those rights “should not cast doubt on academic freedom,” he said.
With regard to the MOU, Mitchell said colleges and universities are in the best position to implement policies on academic freedom. He thanked Hoffman for her leadership on the issue, and said that the institutions had responded positively and constructively.
“CU has heard your concerns,” Hoffman told Mitchell during the press conference. “You have not lost the University’s attention.” She added that there was no disagreement on whether the issue existed, only on whether a bill was necessary to address it.
Students also expressed their gratitude for Mitchell’s efforts. Brad Jones of the CU-Boulder College Republicans thanked Mitchell for bringing the issue to the forefront, noting that students do not have the luxury of time and resources to fight the battle alone.
Ray Kieft, interim president of Metropolitan State College of Denver, responded to questions on the status of Metro philosophy professor Tim Gould (). Gould was involved in a public verbal altercation with two students during a Feb. 25 House Education Committee hearing on HB 1315. Kieft said Gould’s behavior provided “an interesting illustration,” and when asked by a reporter if Metro officials were planning to “punish” Gould for his actions, Kieft said that “is being looked into.”
The memorandum is an anodyne document; it reaffirms provisions of the 1940 AAUP guidelines, engages the universities to re-examine and publicize their student rights policies and grievance procedures, promises to abide by existing law governing the allocation of student fees, and reaffirms the relative autonomy of universities in protecting the rights of students and faculty. Opinions differ on whether this really was a victory for the forces of Horowitz. If Horowitz’s aim was to bring the university teaching under the scrutiny of a Republican legislature, he failed; if his aim was to have a few professors harassed, he succeeded; he also seems to have helped some students find gainful employment as interns for Republican legislators, right-wing radio commentators, and the Independence Institute—those, at least, who weren’t already employed.
Higher education in Colorado is facing a financial crisis. A “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” limits the ability of the state to raise taxes or to retain surpluses; moreover tuition increases are limited to 5.5% per year. Another constitutional amendment requires the state to increase funding for K-12 education, which is forty per cent of the budget, by 1% per year. Mandated spending on Medicaid and similar programs accounts for almost 30%, and the state corrections department for 15%—an amount that has increased because of mandatory sentencing laws. The joint effect of these factors is that the portion of the state budget available for higher education may shrink to zero by 2010; it had already decreased by two-fifths in 2004 ().
As a result, the University of Colorado has assumed “enterprise status”: it receives less than 10% of its funding from the state, but it can increase tuition beyond the levels imposed on institutions that do not have this status. Colorado State will do the same this summer, and increase tuition by 21%. The effect of that is to shift costs formerly funded from tax revenues to students and their families. Horowitz’s slogan is “You can't get a good education if you’re only getting half the story”. Maybe so (though I think that for many students, a “good education” has more to do with acquiring a marketable skill than with anything to do with politics). But you certainly can’t get a good education if you can’t afford to go to school.
Subsequent legislative action
On 9 Sep 2004, Andrews held another hearing. Three students gave testimony on the misdeeds of their professors (). As a result of one of the cases described, a case publicized by a Denver Post columnist, a lecturer at Colorado State was forced to stop teaching (see Amy Resseguie, “CSU prof withdraws from teaching over political statements”, CSU Collegian, 28 Sep 2004), on the grounds that it was not safe for him to continue. As far as I can see, no legislative action resulted from the hearing. In November, the Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate. This year a bill to protect the academic freedom of faculty was introduced by State Sen. Bob Hagedorn, a political science instructor at Metro State ().
Collateral damage
In every war there are scenes that don’t quite live up to the glorious rhetoric that accompanies the fighting. The war for the Academic Bill of Rights is no exception. One of the professors accused of bias in the Andrews hearing was Oneida Meranto, a professor in the Political Science Department at Metro State. According to George Culpepper, then Chairman of the Auraria College Republicans, Professor Meranto exhibited bias in her lectures, forced him to drop her class, and tried to keep the College Republicans out of the Political Science Association on campus. An investigation by the Metro State Administration exonerated her of all charges except that of violating FERPA when she discussed Culpepper’s record with a Denver Post reporter ().
() See first of all the chronological compilation of postings at ProgressNow/Rocky Mountain Progressive Network. On Horowitz’s visit, see Silver and Gold Briefs 18 Sep 2003; Jim Spence, “In Horowitz’s world, right means rude”, archived at the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network. A protest at Metro State preceded Horowitz’s visit (“Academic Freedom Press Release”, RMPN).
Horowitz also spoke at Mesa State (Erin McIntyre, “Horowitz challenges campus to see both sides of issues”; RMPN, Horowitz Ties Funding to ABAR). One interesting tidbit from the Mesa State visit is Horowitz’s view on enforcing the Bill of Rights:
Although the actual enforcement of the bill isn’t in his proposal, “it doesn’t really matter,” Horowitz said. He’s just hoping it’s a wake-up call that allows the “decent others” to overcome their fear of the “left.” […]
Horowitz admits he doesn’t know how his bill will be codified or enforced.
“Personally, I hope it’s tied to funding, somehow,” he said.
The implication of these remarks is that not much thought has been devoted to giving the proposed rights any legal force; but that doing so could provide a means for legislators or the executive to intervene, with the threat of withholding funds in hand, in disputes at every level of academic decision-making, from grading to tenure decisions. In Colorado, at least, the danger is slight: by 2010 (see below) there won’t be any funding…
() See Rocky Mountain Progressive Network, “Conservatives Embarrass Republicans”, 30 Sep 2003. At least one libertarian commentator opposed the bill: Ari Amstrong, “Real Academic Freedom”; also at Colorado Freedom Report; an operative of the Independence Institute responded.
() See, for example, John Andrews, “Update on Academic Freedom: Campus Bias and Media Spin”, ColoradoSenate.com, 8 Oct 2003. This is a response to various articles in the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, including Peggy Lowe, “The man behind war on liberals: Horowitz crusade hits state colleges”, Rocky Mountain News, 27 Sep 2003; available at Susan Ohanian’s site and at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. See also Peggy Lowe, “GOP takes on ‘leftist’ education”, Rocky Mountain News 6 Sep 2003 (also at FrontPage). Horowitz criticized Lowe’s reporting in September 2003 and in January 2004. Lowe’s editor, John Temple, defended her: see “Romenesko” 6 Oct 2003 for an excerpt.
() Matt Dunn, “All You Need to Know About Academic Freedom”, ColoradoSenate.com. See also Andrews’ response to press reports (“Lifespan of a Lie”, also at Silver and Gold).
() Or less than a week. An announcement of the hearing at the Republican legislative site is dated 14 December 2003. Andrews’ letter to the universities is dated 4 Nov.
() Here’s a rundown of some of those who testified on behalf of a bill of rights.
George Culpepper, chairman of the Auraria College Republicans, later of the Colorado College Republicans, intern with Andrews, aide for Pete Coors’ Senate Campaign.
Sources: Joel Tagert, “Spies, lies, and two scheming guysMet Online 27.6, 16 Sep 2004; “College Republicans Respond”, UCD Advocate, registration req’d); Alan [Franklin], Through the looking glass at Metro State, ProgressNow 15 Sep 2004)
Kelly Weist, adjunct at Metro State, associated with the Independence Institute, faculty advisor to the College Republicans
Nick Bahl (not present at the hearing, but his testimony was included in the Indep. Inst. report), intern at the Independence Institute, intern for a right-wing talk show host, Mike Rosen
Anne Clodfelter, Auraria College Republicans
Brian Glotzbach, Auraria College Republicans
Erin Bergstrom, Students for Academic Freedom, Colorado State (see “Bill of Rights Day, 2003”)
Culpepper and Bahl published their accusations on Horowitz’s Frontpage website; on 11 Mar they discussed them on Mike Rosen’s show. All this with no opportunity for the target of their accusations to reply.
() See Campus Accountability Project (Independence Institute), “In their own voices”, Issue Backgrounder 2003-I, 18 Dec 2003. A letter to the Denver Post observes that “although the names of professors accused of liberal bias were not mentioned in the oral testimony, the Campus Accountability Project circulated a lengthy written transcript of student testimony—available to anyone who walked into the hearing room—that did ‘name names’. As Spencer notes, the accused were unable to defend themselves.” The Independence Institute has received the greater part of its funding from the Castle Rock Foundation, the political arm of the Coors family (see the Media Transparency report). One of its founders is, of all people, John Andrews. The Institute published on its website an op-ed piece on behalf of Horowitz by three economists at Metropolitan State College in Denver. It’s party-line stuff:
Unfortunately, too many liberal arts departments in Colorado are no[w] dominated by faculty members who are fervently opposed to rational discourse—-and even opposed to the notion that a theory can be labeled “true” or “false.” Instead, these professors embrace the principle that truth does not exist. Their rule is sometimes called “relativism” or “post-modernism,” or “deconstructionism” or some other multi-syllable “ism.”
The basic point is that there is no “truth,” and it is pointless to go searching for it. All “truths” are equal and anyone stating otherwise is deluding himself and imposing his biased view on others. Judgment is forbidden, and since there is no objective measuring stick, everything is permitted.
Well, there are two exceptions: it is never permitted to say that the United States and Western Civilization are superior, and it is always preferred to claim that they are inferior to all alternatives. It is likewise forbidden for a professor to believe in an academic methodology, which is based on the ideal that truth is real. A few older, tenured professors who believe in truth are still allowed to hang around; but the post-modern faculty’s celebration of “diversity” means nothing when it comes time to hire new faculty. If you’re not a relativist, it will be nearly impossible for you to be hired, no matter how impressive your credentials.
Intellectually this is laughable. But politically it is effective. Sokal’s jape showed that there is just enough truth in it to make a blanket indictment plausible to the uninformed. It is good for frightening parents, for example, into thinking that their kids will learn that cannibalism is OK and that baseball is bad. (The same three authors contributed an op-ed to the Rockey Mountain News on 3 Oct 2003.)
() The relevant portion of the AAUP Statement is this:
Academic Freedom
(a) The teacher is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of his/her other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
(b) The teacher is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject, but he/she should be careful not to introduce into his/her teaching controversial matter that has no relation to his/her subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.
(c) The college or university teacher is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an educational institution. When he/she speaks or writes as a citizen, he/she should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but his/her special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a man/woman of learning and an educational officer, he/she should remember that the public may judge his/her profession and his/her institution by his/her utterances. Hence, he/she should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that he/she is not an institutional spokesperson.
() In the meantime the College Republicans at the University of Colorado set up a web page for submitting complaints about “biased professors and unfair treatment”. It has generated a fair amount of press, but it’s not clear (despite the claim that “here, you can peruse examples of bias in classrooms right here at CU”) whether any complaints have been registered.
() Some Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in opposing the bill (a fact that goes unmentioned by Horowitz and Dogan’s reports). Mark Larson, who had lined up votes for an amendment “gutting the bill”, called it “micromanagement at its worst” (Rocky Mtn. Progressive Network, “Conservative Students' Bill of Rights—Requiem in Discordia”, 19 Mar 2004; unfortunately the Denver Post link no longer works).
The Memorandum of Understanding (see also the Colorado State page) states, among other things, that Colorado institutions of higher education will value and respect diversity, “including respect for diverse political viewpoints”; that no student should be penalized for his or her opinions, that “policies that protect students’ rights should not cast doubt on professors’ academic freedom”; that “that individual institutions and their governing bodies are in the best position to implement policies to respect the rights of students and faculty”; with further undertakings to recognize political diversity, to publicize student rights and grievance procedures, and to ensure fair allocation of student activity fees.
() The tenor of discussions of the Bill of Rights can be gathered from this report:
In response to HB 1315, which aims to protect students’ political speech rights, the council approved a resolution declaring that academic freedom is “a core value” of the University and that the campuses should better publicize their existing grievance procedures. Quoting the Laws of the Regents, the resolution states that that “all members of the academic community have a responsibility to protect the University as a forum for the free expression of ideas.” […]
Stephannie Finley, CU director of state relations, told faculty that President Betsy Hoffman also opposes HB 1315, sponsored by Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield). According to Finley, Hoffman has met with Mitchell to tell him how “demoralizing” the bill would be to faculty. “I see no need for this bill,” Finley said. “There are other ways to deal with this.”
She noted that Mitchell has expressed interest in meeting with Faculty Council, and that he has offered to compromise on the bill, by launching a study on the matter, for instance. But Faculty Council Chair Mark Malone of UCCS education said any such compromise would represent “a foot in the door. … We already protect these things. It’s not the kind of thing we should be compromising on.”
() On the “altercation”, see Colleen Slevin, Bill to Protect Rights of Student Conservatives Moves Ahead, Associated Press, 26 Feb 2004; Colleen Slevin, Clash mars hearing, lawmakers back ‘academic freedom’ bill, Online Coloradoan, 26 Feb 2004.
() See Marianne Goodland, “Legislators hear student complaints/Higher ed leaders: we're addressing political bias”, 16 Sep 2004. The testimony of three students at the hearing is given in ColoradoSenate.com Staff, “Statements by Three Students at Colorado Public Universities/As Provided to the Joint Education Committee Hearing on Protection of Academic Freedom, September 9, 2004”, 20 Sep 2004. Andrews’ rationale for the hearings was that
Some follow-up is timely as the new school year begins. Just this month we’ve heard about a Marxist instructor at CSU berating a young woman veteran, a law professor at CU saying Republican students are racists and Nazis, and a Metro faculty member telling her class that conservatives can’t think. Such incidents may be unavoidable, but legislators will want to know how the universities are handling them.
It’s worth noting that the three cases mentioned by Andrews on 27 August are the very same three cases testified to at the hearing on 9 September. How about that!
() Chris Frates, “Bill would protect college faculty’s speech” Denver Post 15 Jan 2005 (also at RMPN (abridged), and at Frontpage, with a rather sedate response from Horowitz.
() Some references:
University of Colorado, “Suriving financial challenges”, Dec 2003.
Todd Nelson, Higher ed seeks relief from TABOR, Rocky Mountain Collegian 7 Dec 2003.
Jefferson Dodge, “CU report on higher ed funding gets attention”, Silver and Gold, 18 Dec 2003.
Kate Larsen, “Colo. higher education in trouble, leaders say”, Montana Associated Technologies Roundtable18 Dec 2003.
Ron Fitz, “Hoffman: State facing ‘very serious’ funding problem”, Silver and Gold, 26 Feb 2004.
Matthew Benson, Tuition bill gets tepid OK, Coloradoan, 15 April 2004.
Kate Tarasenko, “Enterprise or Privatize?/CSU and other state schools consider enterprise status to escape TABOR-caused funding woes”, Rocky Mountain Bullhorn (see also the comment at Stygius).
Legislature and governor: scant hope for TABOR compromise”, Colorado AAUP Newsletter, Sep 2004.
A voucher plan (SB 189) passed in 2004 as a way to evade restrictions imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights doesn’t look like it will solve the problem (see Dana Waller, “Performance Contracts for Higher Education: A Faculty Point of View”, AAUP-Colorado, Nov 2004.
() FERPA, the Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act, also known as the “Buckley Act” guarantees the privacy of student records. Jennifer Jacobson, “A Liberal Professor Fights a Label/A faculty member accused of bias takes on students and a conservative group”, Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 Nov 2004.

LinkApril 2, 2005 in Academic Affairs · Current Affairs · Society