WASHINGTON – A well-known conservative is reaching out to state lawmakers to beat back what he claims is rampant political bias against students and faculty who do not agree with a pervasive liberal orthodoxy in state schools across the country.
As a result, leaders in several states are reportedly working on anti-bias legislation, including Colorado state Sen. John Andrews (search). Andrews told Foxnews.com that lawmakers in the state General Assembly plan to introduce a bill in coming weeks that would require state college and university officials to educate students and faculty better about their rights against political and ideological bias by other professors and administrators.
"We want every student to be well advised that if they experience this kind of discrimination, the university wants to provide for them a remedy," he said.
Andrews, a Republican, pursued the legislation after months of investigating complaints from students, surveying school policies and holding hearings at the state Capitol. At those December hearings, students accused liberal professors of discrimination, intimidation and refusing to fund conservative speakers on campus.
Reports that Andrews had conferred with conservative activist David Horowitz (search), and that the proposed legislation might be patterned after Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights," sparked a media firestorm last fall.
Critics accused the senator of cooking up a quota scheme for conservative professors and encouraging students to blacklist and snitch on their teachers. The Rocky Mountain Progressive Network was formed in opposition to any plans to get government involved in the ideological struggles on campus.
Michael Huttner, head of the network, said Andrews was on a "right-wing crusade," and said students who appeared at the December hearings "were put up to it," by campus Republican activists.
"It was one of the most egregious dog and pony shows I've seen in years," he said. "There are a lot more important issues, specifically, how are we going to be able to keep Colorado colleges and universities from going bankrupt.”
Joel Tagert, a sophomore at Metropolitan State College of Denver, said he believed the complaints had arisen from a well-organized group of college conservatives, and called the proposed measures at the state level "a sort of witch-hunt for liberals, creating a climate of fear on campus."
Officials for Colorado University said they were not aware of any pattern of bias, and pointed to internal processes that already exist to assist the aggrieved. They are not in favor of the Legislature getting involved.
Andrews said his legislation is not as ambitious as Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights (search), and does not call for "snitching," or a hiring quota for conservative professors. It simply asks administrators to be more forthright about educating everyone about grievance procedures.
"The howls of pain have come from the academic establishment, the academic left, which suggests to me that they are terrified of having their cozy little monopoly broken up by the winds of competing ideas," he said.
Meanwhile, Horowitz told Foxnews.com that he is working with lawmakers in 10 states to pursue legislation along the lines of his Academic Bill of Rights. In part, the bill is meant to ensure that professors do not use the classroom to indoctrinate students to their particular viewpoint, that an intellectual array of speakers are invited to campus-sponsored events and that hired faculty, curricula and reading lists reflect all viewpoints of a given discipline.
A concurrent resolution with similar tenets was introduced in the U.S. Congress by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., in October and was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Horowitz would not name the states hammering out legislation because he said due to the "violence of the reaction" in Colorado, lawmakers have gotten skittish and prefer to nail down their plans before announcing them publicly.
He said he has personally visited 250 campuses, and is disgusted with the examples of abuse he has heard. "These teachers have forgotten their professional obligations," he said.
He pointed to well-publicized complaints in recent years of professors haranguing students over their pro-war stance, including Rosalyn Kahn, a California professor who was placed on administrative leave in 2003 for forcing her students to write letters to President Bush protesting the war in Iraq.
"I taught at the University of Maryland when I was a Marxist revolutionary and I would have never abused the classroom in that way," said Horowitz, a former leftist radical-turned-conservative activist.
Sara Dogan, a 2000 Yale University graduate who runs Students for Academic Freedom (search), said hundreds of students on at least 105 campuses are starting their own chapters, many with the goal of pursuing an Academic Bill of Rights.
The American Association of University Professors (search) has come out against Horowitz's doctrine, claiming that it "undermines the very academic freedom it claims to support."
AAUP spokesman Jonathan Knight said while there might be isolated examples of abusive behavior on the part of liberal professors, "we have seen nothing to suggest that the very foundations of the higher education system are close to being in jeopardy."
Central Connecticut State University history professor Jay Bergman would beg to differ. He said he has long been the target of hostility because of his public position against race-based hiring practices and his call for intellectual diversity in the state university system.
In May, two fellow professors suggested he was a racist because he questioned why a CCSU-sponsored conference on slave reparations hadn't included any speakers who dissented from the pro-reparations point of view.
Professors C. Charles Mate-Kole and Evelyn Phillips said in a statement that anyone who protested reparations "stood on the same platform that produced apartheid, Hitler and the KKK."
Bergman said hostility from within the school system has driven proponents of intellectual diversity to the state legislatures. "Since most administrations are reluctant to favor real intellectual diversity, sometimes external pressure has to be exerted and the Academic Bill of Rights is one pressure."