Diversity Discouraged on Campuses

May 5, 2004

By Shantay Iosia at Front Page Magazine

Coming out of the closet was the hardest thing Laura Freberg had to do. When she decided to pursue an academic career, she chose to conceal her lifestyle to prevent discrimination. She brushed off warnings from her predecessors and lightly acknowledged the break-room jokes and taunting bumper stickers.

When her colleague’s suspicions thinned her guise, she revealed that she was a conservative republican.

In disclosing her political views, she became like many other intellects, isolated and discouraged because of their opinions.

“Everything was great as long as I stayed in the closet,” Freberg said. “It was refreshing to have my true status known.”

Freberg, a psychology professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is one example of a phenomenon that happens on campuses nationwide. Left-leaning instructors dominate most universities leaving little room for opposition.

Freberg argues, because of tenure, there is less mobility in academics and more incentive in the hiring process. “[Administrators] are not only picking their coworkers, they are essentially picking their friends,” she said. “[This] is an overt and conscious effort on the part of ideological gatekeepers.”

Other critics of university governance say this practice limits debate, intimidates dissenting students and ultimately destroys the educational system.

Ideological monopolies can also damage careers in spite of esteemed credentials.

Freberg entered the Cal State system with an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and dissertation studies at Yale University.

She remained silent about her political beliefs until her husband ran for the local Republican Central Committee, Freberg said. She recalled her colleagues swarming in her office immediately after, hoping it was a “mixed marriage.”

She said when she affirmed the allegations, a colleague said, “We would never have hired you if we’d known you were a Republican.”

Freberg was fired as head of the department six weeks after her husband’s candidacy announcement. Additionally, she said she was declined promotion four years in a row from associate professor to full professor despite high student evaluations, numerous publications and extensive university and community service.

Cal Poly President Warren Baker, who was involved in the promotional process, was not available to comment.

After she exhausted the possibility of reconciliation with her employer she sought legal remedy.

“I worked too hard to be bullied out of my position,” Freberg said. The court judged in her favor, but she said she had to return to colleagues who behaved under the presumption that she would not return.

“These cases don’t always end up this way,” she said. “I read all the e-mails and I read the nicknames they made up and now I have to sit at a table and be polite anyway.”

Freberg said she is fortunate to have her job back but is stuck in a “CSU golden trap.” The benefits are better than what other universities are willing to offer, she said. “I’m basically unemployable outside of Cal Poly. No one wants to hire someone who sued their employer.”

Some cases require less legal intervention, but the battle remains consistent.

Paul Sheldon Foote, professor of accounting at Cal State Fullerton, considers himself “one of the few out-of-the-closet Republicans” on this campus.

Foote’s political position became public after he ran for the State Assembly in 1992.

An article published by The Los Angeles Times printed his views on various issues including gun control, welfare reform and healthcare.

Foote said his colleagues began circulating the publication and he became a target for dismissal. Foote said he was fired shortly after for reasons that were never clearly specified.

Foote received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, his master’s from Harvard Business School, his doctorate from Michigan State University and said he felt his credentials were comparable with those of his colleagues.

Almost a year later, Foote took his case before an arbitrator.

“Not only did I get my job back and get tenure, [the arbitrator] said I deserved early tenure.”

The effects of ideological exclusion trickle down from the most elite administrator to unsuspecting students in pursuit of truth. Steven Hinkle, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, sued the university for violating his right to free speech.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit educational foundation and the Center for Individual Rights, a nonprofit special interest law firm, defended Hinkle after he contacted them four months later.

According to FIRE’s Web site, Hinkle said he attempted to post fliers in a common area of the college’s Multicultural Center. The flier announced the speech of Mason Weaver, author of “It’s OK to Leave the Plantation.

”The author, who is black, argues in his book that the reliance on government assistance puts blacks in a position similar to slavery. The flier announced the date and time of the speech, the title of the book, and the name and photo of the author.

Hinkle said the students near him said the flier was offensive. After Hinkle offered to discuss the flier, the offended students threatened to call the University Police. Hinkle was eventually found guilty of “disruption of a campus event.”

Hinkle was required to write letters of apology to the offended students, which had to be approved by the university. Hinkle also told the foundation that Cal Poly threatened to expel him if he did not oblige.

Incidents like this motivated David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, to initiate a movement to protect students’ rights to free speech.

The organization provides assistance to students who feel their political views influenced grading or other forms of discrimination, Sara Dogan, the national campus director said.

“When issues arise, sometimes the best way to remedy a dispute is to expose it to public opinion,” she said. “Sometimes publicity through press releases is a good way to expose abuses in the classroom and encourage universities to take action to prevent further violations of academic freedom.”

Horowitz said his Marxist views did not influence his grades while he was a student at Columbia University during the McCarthy era. Now a conservative, he said he learned a valuable lesson, but the political correctness that has spread throughout campuses has choked the educational system.

“You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story––even if you’re paying $30,000 a year,” he said.

In less than a year, the group Students for Academic Freedom has organized 135 chapters, a sign that this is an issue that matters, Dogan said.

“A comprehensive study by FIRE found that over 90 percent of well-known college campuses have speech codes intended to ban and punish politically incorrect, almost always conservative, speech,” Horowitz said.

SAF aims to develop an Academic Bill of Rights, which universities can adopt to ensure intellectual diversity. The initiative is in litigation in eight states and has been adopted by Brown University.

“It is not our intention to suggest that there should be quotas based on party affiliation in the hiring process at universities,” Horowitz said. “Rather, it is our purpose to discover whether there is a grossly unbalanced, politically shaped selection process in the hiring of college faculty.”

Horowitz also said the hiring of faculty is a monopoly and argues there are more incentives to filter out those with dissenting views.

“Special concern would be required to ensure that there are protections for students’ academic freedom and for intellectual diversity. Unfortunately, in the present institutional framework, no such protections exist.”

Horowitz said the solution lies in the adoption of an amendment to the existing laws of diversity.

Jarret Lovell, a Criminal Justice professor at CSUF said he agrees with the mission but disagrees with their arguments.

“I do not feel that intellectual diversity is threatened and I do not believe that conservative voices are silenced,” he said. “Stand in the quad and speak out against the war or George Bush and see what kind of stares you get. I guarantee it would be a lot different than if you sang ‘God Bless America’ or read out of the Bible.”

Lovell said that he was hired because of his left-leaning views to diversify the pool of correction officers that taught in his department. He said he holds strong views but does not let that influence his grading.

“I let my students know my biases up front, so they will be better prepared to think independently and ask questions,” he said. “Education is about liberation, not just information. So that students will no longer be slaves to the practices inherited by their parents and their parents’ parents.”

Lovell said education is about progression much like women’s rights and racial equality.

“The function of knowledge is to move forward. The pursuit of knowledge should not be conservative,” he said. “If that’s the case we would still be drilling holes into skulls to remove the evil spirits that caused headaches.”

Being conservative means staying where we are, he said. “[But] knowledge should be disturbing. It should be like an earthquake that breaks your foundation.”

Download file "Diversity Discouraged on Campuses"

Schools: California Polytechnic State University