Campus bias forum mixes politics with academic integrity

DURHAM – North Carolina is not the only state where campus bias is a major concern.

That was made apparent during a campus bias forum held May 8 at the headquarters for Robert “Whit” Whitfield’s campaign for the 4th District House of Representatives seat. That seat is currently held by Rep. David Price, D-N.C.

About 30 people – mostly scheduled speakers and campaign workers – gathered inside the office complex located on North Carolina 54 in Durham to discuss examples of academic bias on college campuses. Examples were cited by campus representatives from North Carolina, Virginia, and New York.

The forum also included a call by Third District Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., for a hearing on academic bias.

“I really believe this should not be a liberal or conservative issue,” said Jones, one of the co-sponsors of a House Resolution calling for the passage of the Academic Bill of Rights. Jones said there are no Democrats who are co-sponsors of the resolution, which will be amended to another bill for passage.

The event was organized by the Whit for Congress Committee. Other Republican candidates in the 4th District race include Holly Springs resident Todd Batchelor and Raleigh businessman Howard Mason. The state’s primary is July 20.

Signs of Whitfield’s campaign were apparent throughout the conference, with campaign signs and literature greeting people as they walked into the conference. The check-in table featured a television monitor playing Whitfield’s latest campaign commercial. The commercial is very similar to a Geico commercial featuring a congressional hearing.

In his opening remarks, Whitfield cited examples of academic bias that had been uncovered or promoted by the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Those examples included a student, Tim, who was ridiculed in a class email by his professor for comments made in a classroom discussion about homosexuality.

Whitfield also cited how the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Women’s Center initially refused to allow a pro-life group to participate in its “Women’s Week” program. After pressure from the group and the media, the Women’s Center opened its organization to the Carolina Students for Life.

Whitfield discussed the controversy surrounding UNC-Chapel Hill’s summer reading program as well.

“They really believe they are the elites and they should be leading this country,” Whitfield said.

The event did provide a look at some of the issues surrounding academic bias on college campuses. Some of the sessions were titled “Persecution of Professors” and “Intellectual/Ideological Abuse and Bias.”

Michael Filozof, a political science professor at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., said he was accused of sexual harassment because of his views on the War on Terrorism and Iraq. The accusations came after Filozof placed a sticker on his car that said “I support President Bush,” according to Accuracy in Academia.

Filozof was on the tenure track at the college at that time.

“I try to make my teaching as nonpartisan as possible,” Filozof said.

Central Connecticut State history professor Jay Bergman told those in attendance about the struggles he encountered while trying to combat academic bias and homosexuality at the New England school.

“To me intellectual diversity is a no-brainer,” Bergman said. “Universities that do not practice intellectual diversity are guilty of nothing less than malpractice.”

Eugene Mathews, a South Carolina lawyer, said he had some concerns about higher education and the lack of academic freedom in the classrooms.

“American colleges are in danger of marginalizing themselves,” Mathews said.

The conference also included discussions from college students who have been active in preserving academic integrity on college campuses. Among those were Michael McKnight, a 2004 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and the founder of the Committee for a Better Carolina.

McKnight said that he believes liberal students at UNC-Chapel Hill are an outspoken minority.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s that overwhelming liberal,” McKnight said of UNC-Chapel Hill. “It’s not.”

Shannon Blosser ( is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.