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College daze

January 20, 2006

COMES NOW ANDREW JONES, UCLA class of ought-three, bringing charges of bias, irrelevance and inappropriate partisanship among his former professors, as posted in detail on his group's website. Let us proceed to a reading of the offenses.

According to the website run by the Bruin Alumni Assn. (www.uclaprofs.com), these academic misdeeds in large part consist of petitions the professors signed, articles they wrote or political movements they supported.

Lapses in classroom demeanor are not the main basis for the charges, although the group says it will amend its pleading with such details. It plans to pay students $100 to provide tapes or lecture notes showing that professors showed undue political or social bias in the classroom. The plan has raised the ire not only of the professors but also of a few members of the group's advisory board, who have resigned in protest.

In the meantime, there is a list of "The Dirty Thirty" professors, the so-called worst of the worst. (Actually, there are only 28; the other two are "to be announced.") They include a "modern female academic" who is "militant, impatient, accusatory and radical -- very radical"; the political science professor who is "young, radical and in demand"; a "dyed-red laborista radical" who teaches Asian-American studies; a law professor who is a "rising radical star" ... OK, you get the idea. Everyone is radical, or at least has friends who are.

The verdict here is clear: UCLA is guilty as charged. Somehow it managed to graduate a bunch of students -- Jones and fellow members of the Bruin Alumni Assn. -- who can't make a coherent argument. Nor do they appear to understand one of the basic tenets of the Constitution: In the U.S., people have the right to sign petitions, write articles and subscribe to whatever politics they choose. That goes for professors -- and for conservative alumni who post amusingly unconvincing whines on the Web.

There is no doubt that academics are more likely to be liberal than conservative. Some may even abuse their position by teaching a distorted view of a subject or making students who disagree feel uncomfortable or afraid to speak out, lest their grade suffer. Universities have procedures to protect students from such abuse; meanwhile, the same academic freedom that allows these lapses of judgment also protects professors so that they can question supposedly sacrosanct assumptions without losing their jobs.

Jones should return to college himself to get his dirt on professors. And while he's at it, he may want to sit in on a few courses on law, ethics, rhetoric and the history of free speech.

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