To the CSU Community:

Sep 282004

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.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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