Simply put, it became politically necessary to sacrifice someone
to the Republican volcano of manufactured and misguided hysteria
over “political bias” on Colorado university campuses. When student
Heather Schmidt, already anxious and concerned over her husband’s
service in Iraq, came forward with an objection to what she
perceived had been said in introductory remarks in my sociology
class, CSU administrators seized the opportunity to throw red meat
to demanding legislators who also determine levels of state funding
for each state college and university. As an adjunct professor with
no rights to recourse, I was an easy target.
No CSU administrator has ever asked me to provide my version of
this incident. Within one hour of reading the student’s account the
day after it occurred, I called sociology chair Lou Swanson to
vehemently disagree with the student’s story. Yet, beginning with
CSU College Republicans President Chuck Fogland’s first e-mail
(there was a second calling for my head) to me and a dozen other
state and national Republicans, the predictable reaction was based
entirely on the story of one student, from one hour, of one day, of
her first sociology class. I have received threats; I have endured
countless hateful comments and articles; I have been vilified on
numerous Web sites; I have been accused of assaulting, harassing
and bullying this student; I have been humiliated in national press
and by CSU President Larry Penley in Senate hearings; I have been
called anti-American; I have been questioned and criticized by
friends and colleagues; all without the opportunity afforded to
even a war criminal to present my side of the story.
I ask all fair-minded Americans if this constitutes due process,
or even resembles a superficial attempt to uncover the facts. If
so, why has not a single student from that class of 50 been asked
to describe events of that day? I have always known that it was the
students – those who completed the course, not just attended the
first day and then dropped it – who would provide the most accurate
account. Ultimately, I trust the collective interpretation of the
students to determine what actually took place.
That Republicans have suddenly claimed exclusive dominion over
“academic freedom,” while simultaneously destroying it, is
repugnant to American freedom fighters. This vicious and
well-organized attempt to hijack thought on American campuses is
most certainly having a chilling effect on teaching styles and
choices of topics. This power-play runs all the way to the top in
both state government and state university systems, not only
chilling, but freeze-drying administrators into a cowardly
concession of their very raison d’�tre. Finding an
oppositional voice in these vast organizational structures is like
finding a single shaft of wheat blowing in the opposite direction
in a field. In the end, we all lose: Lives are sacrificed,
principles and ethics are compromised and the educational discourse
is rendered lifeless and irrelevant.
Historically occurring in socially chaotic times, the modus
operandi for such witch hunts is timeless: selective targeting and
persecution of particular populations with the ultimate intent of
leveraging fear and intimidation to accomplish demands – sounds
like a definition of terrorism to me.
Steven G. Helmericks, Ph.D.
*Steven Helmericks is an adjunct professor at CSU. He is not
presently teaching classes this semester due to an incident that
occurred in June in a summer course. He now has a research position
at the university.