Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

The Right Kind of Indoctrination
by Asher Smith
The Emory Wheel
September 22, 2008

False allegations of suppressing free speech
Misc. Corrections

Campus Watch Responds:

Asher Smith, a sophomore at Emory University, gets Campus Watch wrong on several levels in a piece celebrating the creation of academic programs that take a more traditional line on pedagogy and methodology.

Smith begins his piece with the most hackneyed, shop-worn cliche of the left: associating contemporary critics of higher education with McCarthyism.

'Any Jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.'

So said the legendary Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn in 1953, heartbroken after his Democrats surrendered control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans following the 1952 midterm elections, an election cycle tainted by rampant red-baiting and McCarthyism. Rayburn turned out to be quite prescient; the Republicans would prove unable to adequately meet the tasks required of being in the majority, and turned control of the House back to Rayburn's Democrats, who would go on to hold down the House for the next four decades.

As it turns out, the same aphorism holds true with regard to education.

For years now conservatives have made it their business to rail against the perceived far-left tilt of America's institutions of higher educations. Former Harvard professor and conservative intellectual Daniel Pipes founded the organization Campus Watch in 2002 with the intention of monitoring supposedly leftist college professors, urging students to submit "reports" on their teachers and their assigned books and curricula.

Of course, Campus Watch is not a McCarthyite organization. We possess no governmental powers--we cannot subpoena anyone--and we have no means of censoring a single soul. Nor do we wish to acquire this capacity. Rather, we are a project of the Middle East Forum, a nonprofit organization. Our tools are not government power or the long arm of the law, but rigorous critiques of professors of Middle East studies.

On that score, Smith is again incorrect, and a modicum of research would have enlightened him as to Campus Watch's mission. We do not, as he states, monitor "supposedly leftist college professors": we monitor Middle East studies, and only that field. Academics beyond our niche are not part of our mission.

Moreover, we invite commentary from anyone with information on Middle East studies, be they students, professors, journalists, or parents. By casting opprobrium on the possibility that students may share their thoughts on professors, is Smith suggesting that students should not have the right to voice their opinions on their academic experience?

Finally, Smith offers this unsupported throw-away line on the efforts of organizations and individuals who for years have critiqued higher education:

Obviously, none of this door-kicking ever accomplished anything.
Really? How does Smith think the ground was laid for the establishment of the programs he celebrates? Absent years of trench work offering the public inside views of the intellectual corruption of academe, the need for such programs would hardly be self-evident to the donors who fund them or the university administrators who sought relief from both criticism and the intellectually stultifying status quo by approving them. Smith admits that left-wing interpretations of history have failed to relate the past to contemporary readers in ways that are interesting and worthwhile. Those of us involved in higher ed reform knew that many years ago; it's why we're in the business.

More obviously, if Campus Watch and other organizations that critique higher education have been so ineffective, why accuse them of McCarthyism? Why bother with attempting to tarnish the reputation of organizations that have had no success in achieving their missions?

(Posted by Winfield Myers)