Today's issue of Stateside Dispatch, a publication of the Progressive States Network, takes a critical look at conservative efforts to squelch dissent on college campuses. In the right's latest attempt to discourage viewpoints it deems politically unpalatable, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni -- an organization founded in 1995 by Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne -- is promoting what it calls "Intellectual Diversity" legislation. Based on the concern that academics are overwhelmingly left-leaning, the legislation mandates that professors remain ideologically neutral in the classroom and creates state councils to monitor views being presented.
According to PSN, such bills have been introduced this year in 10 states, with half of those in the South: Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, West Virginia and Louisiana. The version introduced in Virginia -- which was scaled back somewhat from the model legislation and passed the state House unanimously -- requires schools to report to the state council on higher education and the legislature on efforts to promote the free exchange of ideas.
Interestingly, at least one state that's looked into whether there are problems with the free exchange of ideas in the academy due to left-wing bias have found none. Several years ago, Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled state House created a special legislative committee to investigate whether students who hold unpopular views need protection. In November 2006, the committee issued a report that said it found no evidence of widespread problems.
The "Intellectual Diversity" legislation is based on the controversial ideas of left-wing radical-turned-right-wing radical David Horowitz, author of The Professors: The 100 Most Dangerous Academics in America, which targets professors from Southern schools including Baylor, Duke, Emory, North Carolina State, Texas A&M, University of Kentucky, University of South Florida, and the University of Texas. One of the academics Horowitz has singled out, UT-Austin Communication Studies Professor Dana Cloud, has written of the hate mail, physical threats and other harassment she's experienced as a result of being targeted by Horowitz, whose tactics she's likened to McCarthyism. She also reports how students in the Horowitz-founded Students for Academic Freedom keep a watch list and encourage the reporting of professors who exhibit "bias":
... which could mean anything from telling a Bush joke to encouraging students to think critically about gender; but NEVER means talking about capitalism in the business school or celebrating corporate culture in the advertising department ...