Scott Tibbs
April 5th, 2005

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Horowitz to speak at Indiana University

If I am back in town by Thursday evening, I hope to make the speech by David Horowitz. He will speak at the IU Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. He certainly knows how to stir up interest in a topic.

Horowitz is what I call a "political suicide bomber." He will intentionally take an offensive position knowing that he will bait Leftist zealots into exposing their totalitarian nature. Horowitz will eagerly "take one for the team" because he knows the Left will embarrass itself by demanding censorship.

We saw this in 2001 when he published an ad in the Indiana Daily Student (one of many college newspapers where this ad was run) condemning reparations for the descendants of slaves. The Left went absolutely ballistic, calling for censorship of the ad and even going to the extreme of saying that IDS staff should be subjected to "sensitivity training" for daring to run the ad. I wrote an opinion column on the subject.

I suspect that Leftist activists will picket Horowitz's speech. Hopefully, the debate can be kept civil and we will not be reading an account of a Leftist thug assaulting Horowitz.

Most likely, Horowitz will use this speech to advance his "Academic Bill of Rights", which has made progress in several state legislatures and is making its' way through the Indiana Legislature now.

At one point, I believed that an "Academic Bill of Rights" was needed to protect the rights of students at public universities, especially because I have witnessed so many contemptible assaults on freedom of speech. I am, however, wavering on that issue.

Do we really need another law on the books? Conservative students are already protected by the First Amendment. Indiana University knows it cannot legally practice content-based censorship. When the University attempted stick the Genocide Awareness Project in Dunn Meadow, they found themselves in court. IU was forced to accept a compromise where the Center for BioEthical Reform was allowed to set up at the Sample Gates.

When Leftist zealots (including a "Republican" City Council candidate) demanded the University censor the web log of IU business professor Eric Rasmusen, the University knew they could not legally remove "offensive" statements from the server. The University, despite a complaint from a Leftist radical, knew they could not censor the "affirmative action bake sale" in 2003.

Yes, free speech is constantly under attack on the IU campus. However, the Constitution already protects that speech, and the University knows that it cannot discriminate on the basis of ideological leanings in hiring of professors. As a philosophical libertarian, I do not support adding a new law when existing law already serves the same purpose.

Finally, I am leery of some of the language in the "Academic Bill of Rights" that would require a more "balanced" approach in some classes, such as political science classes. I took a "gender studies" course (Sexual Politics) in my last semester at IU. While the reading list was certainly weighted toward the Left, I thought the instructor was more than fair. I would up with an A in the course, even though I was a conservative activist who held office with both the IU College Republicans and IU Students for Life.

I am not thrilled with the prospect of the Legislature reviewing college classrooms to make sure the readings and lectures are fair and balanced. I do think that the Indiana Legislature should keep a close eye on state universities and use the power of the purse strings to "persuade" IU to err on the side of liberty when faced with a free speech issue.

Even if the AboR was passed by the legislature, who is to say that it will be effective in the long run? If a state university is already inclined to violate the Constitution, why would they fear a state law? If I were in the State Legislature right now, I would be inclined to vote "no" on the Academic Bill of Rights.