California prof's required reading paints Usama bin Laden as a freedom fighter

Usama bin Laden was a freedom fighter and the U.S. is a “neocolonial power,” according to a California state university teacher whose writings are required reading for his political science students.

Emmit Evans, a political science lecturer at the public university Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, requires students in his "World Food Systems" class to read the textbook he co-authored, "The Other World." In the book, about politics in the developing world, Evans offers up a sanitized version of the 9/11 mastermind and the terrorist group he headed.

“The Al Qaeda movement of Osama bin Laden is one example of an attempt to free a country (in this case, Saudi Arabia) from a corrupt and repressive regime propped up by a neocolonial power (in this case, the United States),” the book says.


At least one student found the description hard to swallow.

"It totally blew my mind that a professor would essentially call Al Qaeda a bunch of freedom fighters in required reading for class," Aaron Bandler, a junior who took Evans’ class, told

Asked about his line referencing Al Qaeda, Evans told in the language of academia that he merely presents facts and doesn't moralize.

"With respect to my writings, they are empirical, not normative," he said.

But Bandler said Evans’ bias showed throughout the course.

"He was encouraging us to be activists... the whole last part of the course was about how to cause ‘positive change’... but his examples of positive change were all stuff like Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and raising the minimum wage,” Bandler said. “He would say things like, 'I know you guys can go out there and make things more sustainable.'"

Evans told that his class does indeed have a bias -- one towards sustainability.

"World Food Systems has a built-in slant:on sustainability,” Evans said. “We do not focus on 'the other side' -- how we might build more unsustainable food systems."

Several studies have documented the left-wing orientation of most college professors. A survey done by UCLA researchers found that just 9.5 percent of public university professors identified as conservative, while 65.7 percent identified as liberals.

Bandler, who calls himself a proud conservative, said he believes his grade was never affected by political differences with his teacher.

"I feared about the impact of my politics on my grade a little bit, but the tests were mostly just multiple choice, graded on a … machine,” he said. “I don't really think my grade was affected.”

After the class, Bandler complained to Evans about the bias he perceived, and Evans replied to him by e-mail:

“Course evaluations sometimes include comments similar to yours, which encourage us to make the goals and focus of the course as explicit as possible. I’m sorry if I didn’t accomplish that as well as I could have in your case, but am pleased you didn’t un-enjoy the class!”

Bandler wrote of his experience in Evans class for the conservative blog The College Fix. He later told the professor was also a nice guy who made him think.

"But I think I'd still like to see another side, at the very least just show the conservative side,” Bandler said. “He brought up Occupy Wall Street, but he couldn't talk about the Tea Party at all?"

Asked about that by, Evans replied: "Nice idea... I'll check out Tea Party agendas and activities regarding their approach to sustainability. Would you have any suggestions on a good place to start?"

The author of the piece can be reached at or on twitter at @maximlott