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Big Brother on Campus

November 20, 1985

Last summer Reed Irvine, the major-domo of Accuracy in Media, gave the world yet another truth squad called Accuracy in Academia, aimed at monitoring what professors tell students and exposing their supposedly left-wing views. This push for a conservative orthodoxy mistakes what universities and scholarship are all about. It has been rightly condemned by the American Assn. of University Professors as a threat to academic freedom. Though Accuracy in Academia says that it wants "balance" in what students are taught, what it really wants is conformity with its own political opinions.

At first, Accuracy in Academia seemed hardly worth attention. But now it has raised more than $50,000 and recruited volunteer "monitors" on 150 campuses to attend classes, make notes on what professors say and turn them over to be published in the organization's newsletter. So far, eight or nine faculty members have been targeted for further investigation, according to Les Csorba III, Accuracy in Academia's executive director.

Though university administrations say that they will not be influenced by the organization's assertions, the intimidation implicit in its program cannot be ignored. The specter of students filing reports on their teachers to an outside political organization recalls some of the darkest times in this country's modern history.

The trouble with both Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia is that they are based on the assumption that there is one, and only one, politically correct way to think. Accuracy in Academia says that there are 10,000 Marxists teaching on American college campuses and that students should be protected from their mistaken views. How the organization arrived at that number is unclear, but it is clear that college students are capable of critical thought. Education is not indoctrination.

College faculties have longstanding procedures for evaluating scholars and for passing judgment on their work. This is the appropriate and intellectually honest forum for academic pursuits. Scholars have a right to draw conclusions from their research and to convey those conclusions to their students, even if others disagree. Students have a right to challenge what their teachers tell them. The resulting dialogue is education.

No one is well served by thought police on college campuses. They are anathema to the spirit of free inquiry that is the bedrock of our nation's institutions of higher learning. Academic freedom is a cherished value that, like freedom of speech, protects even those who disagree.

If Reed Irvine & Co. can try to silence one point of view today, whose point of view will be the target tomorrow?

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