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November 23, 2005


To the editor:

Now that the liberal-bias hearings are behind us, it may be well worthwhile to take note of a few essentials.

The passage of House Resolution 177 earlier this year may have accomplished much more than is readily apparent. It not only ushered in the liberal-bias campaign of the National Association of Scholars but helped bring to the surface the long-brewing sentiments of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni as expressed in its treatise titled, “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It” (November 2001). The overall plan is to employ both legislative and institutional means to transform the learning environment; more importantly, the campaign sees funding to be the most effective leverage in reforming higher education.

The University of Pittsburgh, very ably represented at the hearings by Provost James Maher, has quite commendably stood its ground against all ill-informed assaults on academic freedom. Unfortunately, the same resolve appears to fail Oakland when it comes to its branch campuses as steep budget cuts are meted out in the wake of enrollment shortfalls thereby effecting subtle alterations in the curriculum. In the case of Bradford for instance, these cuts have initiated a frantic search for quick fixes so that wholesome liberal arts courses, such as in political science, are readily sacrificed for such market-friendly and ideologically neutral offerings as leisure industry management. The fact that Oakland stands ready to endorse such a gambit may inadvertently indulge the tent-revival spirit of David Horowitz as celebrated in his Academic Bill of Rights.

At this point in time we might do well to remind ourselves that academic freedom constitutes much more than the rights of students and teachers in the classroom; it involves the composition of the curriculum as well, in as much as the product delivered is just as important as the mode and atmosphere of its delivery. So long as budgetary manipulations are allowed to refocus the curriculum, one may very well wonder whether, despite its prominent stance on academic freedom, the institution may not be letting its branch campus curricula drift in a direction much wished for by the National Association of Scholars. The University may have well won the first round in the battle to defend academic freedom in the classroom but it remains to be seen whether it is an equally effective combatant on all other fronts.

Gautam Mukerjee

Associate Professor


Bradford Campus


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