Accuracy group moniters colleges(Continued from page 7)
By Suzanne J. Sandor
Local and national college professors are criticizing Accuracy in Academia (AIA), a conservative organization formed last August to monitor university classrooms for leftist bias.
AIA aims to "promote greater balance and accuracy in the classroom" by preventing leftist bias, said Laslo Csorba III, executive director of AIA, in the Oct. 3 Boston Globe. The group hopes students will volunteer themselves as monitors in the classrooms, he continued.
Samuel J. Keyser, associate provost for Educational Policy and Programs at MIT, criticized the program in an interview with The Tech. He said that truth will only be found in the classroom with the use of open argument and free exchange of ideas. "Education is not indoctrination," he added. He was uncertain why AIA has come about.
"Any classroom that is worth [its] salt is one in which questioning on the part of students is encouraged. That is not only how the student learns, but also how the teacher learns," he said.
Keyser stressed four issues that he felt are important:
O+ "Education is a free flow of discussion back and forth;"
O+ "Who accredited these monitors?" he asked. "Is there a need for an accuracy in Accuracy in Academia?";
O+ "I bet you all the complaints come from the small schools;"
O+ "This notion of AIA is not new."
But others feel that there is a dangerous leftist ideological bias in many college courses. Reed Irvine, founder and chairman of AIA, said in the Oct. 25 New York Times that this bias poses a danger for students, who may accept leftist ideology as truth if they are not exposed to conservative perspectives.
Irvine cited the example of Dr. Mark Reader of Arizona State University, a professor in an introductory political science survey course. According to Irvine, Reader overemphasized such things as "fears of nuclear war, power and weapons."
Reader received a registered letter from Csorba on Oct. 15 explaining Csorba's complaints about his teaching methods. "You are dedicating most of your class time to anti-nuclear propaganda and the nuclear threat," wrote Csorba. "A student quoted you as saying that the Soviet Union is no threat compared to the United States' imperialist aggressions," he added.
Reader stated that the quote at issue did not represent his position. He doubted that he had said it. But he added, if he had said it, he was entitled to do so.
AIA's National Director Matthew Scully said in an interview with The Tech that professors are too arrogant to change their ways. There is a difference between being a college professor and a political activist, he said, in reference to Reader.
Another professor who has already been challenged by AIA is Peter Porosky, an English professor at the University of Maryland. Last summer a student quoted him as saying that there was more injustice in America than in Nazi Germany.
Scully felt that Porosky "was just mouthing off in class ... He knows better than that ... [it] was just a stupid thing to say." Csorba telephoned Porosky in reference to his remarks and said that "we're satisfied with his explanation."
Harvard vice president John Shattuck said in the Globe that he believed AIA's mission "has a disturbingly familiar ring to it -- like the 1950's and the times of Senator Joe McCarthy. Both President [of Harvard Derek] Bok and I have gone on record questioning the tactics this group intends to use and the threat to academic freedom they pose."
Boston-area educators who have been cited by AIA for instilling "leftist biases in student minds" include Boston University professor Howard Zinn, Harvard professors George Wald and John Womack and University of Massachusetts at Amherst Professor Samuel Bowles, according to the article in the Globe. AIA has not yet mentioned any MIT professors, according to Scully.
AIA "doesn't want to be a political faction," he explained. He believes in the idea of selfcensorship, which he defined as an intellectual discipline that a rational person imposes on himself.
Zinn believes that "Now it doesn't matter if they [AIA] have one student or two hundred working for them because an atmosphere of intimidation is all they need," according to the Oct. 29 Wellesley Tab. "I think it's had a chilling effect of both professors and students."
Bowles had asked that the AIA monitor or monitors in his classes announce themselves, he said in the Globe. So far, he added, no one has come forward. "I would welcome members of AIA attending my classes and participating in discussions, but the attempt by a politically motivated group to place informers in classrooms, not for the purpose of education but to monitor what it deems [to be] the accuracy of the content of the course, is an invasion of academic freedom and the privacy of the classroom."
AIA's efforts are "neo-McCarthyism," he said. Their plan will backfire, Bowles explained, "because it so obviously reveals that what this particular segment of the right is interested in is not so much accuracy but rather intimidation. The university community will be almost unanimous in rejecting these efforts.
"[AIA] is another in a series of blunders that the right has made on social issues," he continued.
Csorba said in the Globe that students should directly confront their professors before contacting the AIA, "but we realize some can't because the professor can intimidate them since he has their grades in his pocket." Students who fear confronting teachers or who feel they don't get satisfaction should report to AIA any comments they deem questionable, he added.
Jordan Kurland, associate general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, stated in the Globe that "I don't think academic freedom in general will be threatened, but individuals will get hurt. The potential for abuse is immense."