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University accused of censorship
Mobile Register ^ | 01/19-04 | Sean Reilly

Posted on 01/20/2004 10:35:47 AM PST by Captain Kirk

Mobile Register

University accused of censorship

01/19/04

By SEAN REILLY

Washington Bureau

A conservative faculty organization at the University of Alabama is accusing administrators of censorship after the group was barred from using the campus mail system to distribute its newspaper without regular postage.

Leaders of the organization, known as the Alabama Scholars Association, charge that the decision is payback for their efforts to shake up the status quo, including a proposal for term limits for university administrators and a report that found widespread grade inflation in some departments.

"It's just an effort to quash any sort of dissent," the association's president, history professor David Beito, said last week.

University Provost Judy Bonner responded that school officials simply are following postal regulations that al low the low-cost campus mail system to be used only by "bona fide" university organizations.

"We're trying to follow the law," said Bonner, who became the school's top academic officer last year soon after Robert Witt became the university's president.

This is not the first time, however, that critics have questioned the commitment of Alabama's public universities to the spirit of free and open inquiry that is supposedly the hallmark of academic life.

In 1999, for example, a top Troy State University System administrator acknowledged destroying research that had angered then-Gov. Don Siegelman with its conclusion that revenue from a proposed state lottery would not pay for all the programs Siegelman was promoting.

Two years later, in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of newspapers, a Lee County Circuit Judge ruled that the Auburn University Board of Trustees repeatedly violated the state's sunshine law by meeting in secret. Although the Alabama Supreme Court partly overturned that decision, the board changed its bylaws to foster more openness.

Fight for information:

Still, getting information from school administrators remains a challenge, said Lindsay Evans, editor of the student newspaper, "The Auburn Plainsman."

Last October, for example, President William Walker and several trustees made an unannounced trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss the school's accreditation problems with U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, as well as U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and other members of the congressional delegation. In seeking to confirm the trip, the Plainsman got more help from lawmakers than from the university, Evans said.

"They don't want to be questioned," she said of school officials. "They want to do what they want to some extent."

Auburn University spokesman David Granger denied that allegation, saying the school is responsive to the media. If Auburn officials were "a little more deliberate" about releasing information about Walker's trip last October, Granger said, the reason was their sensitivity to what Paige and lawmakers "wanted to make known about the conversation."

At the time, however, Auburn trustee Jack Miller of Mobile offered a pithier explanation in a Mobile Register article: "What my business is with Richard Shelby is nobody else's business."

Walker resigned Friday, about two months after making another undercover expedition, to the Louisville, Ky., area with two trustees and Athletic Director David Housel to speak to University of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino about possibly coming back to Auburn as a replacement for Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. That trip, too, didn't stay secret for long. Walker repeatedly apologized once it became public.

Opening up at USA:

Complaints of secrecy are not universal. At the University of South Alabama, faculty members say the institution has opened up considerably since Gordon Moulton replaced Fred Whiddon as president in 1998.

"There's no perfect setup anywhere, but things are vastly improved," said John Papastefan, a music professor.

But nationally, freedom-of-information advocates say that taxpayer-funded colleges and universities chronically ignore sunshine laws.

In one 1991 episode, two South Carolina news organizations rented a tractor to dig up financial records that a University of South Carolina foundation had dumped into a landfill during a criminal investigation.

Further west, the University of Missouri spent more than a decade in court unsuccessfully arguing that it did not have to release internal audits, said Charles Davis, executive director of the university's Freedom of Information Center.

In part, Davis said, institutions of higher education are "culturally" secretive, with decisions about admissions, hiring and promotions typically made behind closed doors. Aggravating that tendency, he said, is a growing fixation on image and public relations.

"Everything becomes a discussion of 'How will that look?'" he said.

National group:

Organized in 2001, the Alabama Scholars Association is the state affiliate of the National Scholars Association, a generally conservative organization whose top concerns include declining academic standards, free speech rights and the use of gender and race in faculty hiring and student recruitment, according to its Web site.

In fall 2002, the Alabama organization reported that some academic departments at the University of Alabama were handing out a much higher ratio of "A" grades than others. Topping the list was the women's studies department, where the percentage of "A's" averaged more than 78 percent for freshman and sophomore courses, according to the group. For the Department of Biological Sciences, the comparable percentage was 11.5 percent.

When association members sought to update their findings last summer, they were told that the university's Office of Institutional Research and Assessment no longer compiled the grade distribution data, Beito said. Soon after they reported that development in the inaugural issue of their newspaper, The Alabama Observer, administrators decided that the Observer could not be sent through campus mail. In Tuscaloosa, about 5,000 copies of the latest issue are instead being distributed on racks, Beito said.

Bonner said the university's decision had "absolutely nothing to do" with the scholars association's activities. Under postal regulations, she said, only organizations funded and managed by the university can use the campus mail system. Others have to use regular stamped mail.

"We have a new administration," she said. "It is simply trying to follow the postal regulations."

At the institutional research office, Director William Fendley said the decision to stop reporting the grade data was made strictly for logistical reasons, not to spare the university any potential embarrassment.

"My budget has been cut; at the same time, our workload has increased tremendously," Fendley said.

'Shallow' approach:

Fendley also called the scholars association's handling of the data "shallow," because it didn't take other factors into account. Higher admission standards might be producing better students, Fendley said, or some teachers might be doing a better job of instruction.

"They were concluding something based on some very basic data for which they were not fully using other variables," he said.

The Alabama Observer is not the only publication now prohibited from the university's mail system. Also banned is the newsletter of the Alabama chapter of the American Association of University Professors, a national faculty organization.

"It was really something that came as a total surprise to me," said Maarten Ultee, a history professor who is that group's point man at the University of Alabama. Other state four-year schools continue to allow campus mail distribution of the newsletter, but the University of Alabama organization has resorted to hand delivery.

The national office of AAUP in Washington, D.C., is looking into the issue, an official there confirmed last week. In the meantime, the University of Alabama's history department is planning a conference next year on "freedom and censorship in the university," Ultee said.

Asked whether recent developments influenced the choice of theme, Ultee replied, "It just seemed to us a good topic."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Front Page News; US: Alabama
KEYWORDS: academia; alabama; bias; censorship; collegebias; diversity; education; educationalbias; educators; educrats; indoctrination; liberalbias; liberalelites; multiculturalism; organizationalbias; pc; professors; protectedclass; publicschool; publicuniverstity; reeducationcenter; schoolbias; schools; taxdollarsatwork; teachers; teachersunions; universities; universitybias; youpayforthis

1 posted on 01/20/2004 10:35:48 AM PST by Captain Kirk
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To: Captain Kirk
Roll Tide... over the conservatives?

Alabama is a very conservative state. Universities, even deep in the Heart o' Dixie, aren't. Sure to be fallout.

2 posted on 01/20/2004 10:39:38 AM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: Captain Kirk
These libs are un-freeping-believable!!!

They know they are losing power and will stop at nothing to inflame the masses (on both sides of the aisle).

Yeah, right . . . the party of inclusion, free speech and the rights of the minority!

The dismantling of the democrat party continues . . .
3 posted on 01/20/2004 10:44:17 AM PST by BluSky (“Don’t make me come down there.”)
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To: Captain Kirk
78% 'A's...LOL!
4 posted on 01/20/2004 10:44:36 AM PST by headsonpikes (Spirit of '76 bttt!)
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To: Captain Kirk
Outrageous.
5 posted on 01/20/2004 10:46:31 AM PST by aculeus (What I Wouldn't Give for a Large Sock with Horse Manure in it.)
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To: Alas Babylon!
In fall 2002, the Alabama organization reported that some academic departments at the University of Alabama were handing out a much higher ratio of "A" grades than others. Topping the list was the women's studies department, where the percentage of "A's" averaged more than 78 percent for freshman and sophomore courses, according to the group. For the Department of Biological Sciences, the comparable percentage was 11.5 percent.

When association members sought to update their findings last summer, they were told that the university's Office of Institutional Research and Assessment no longer compiled the grade distribution data, Beito said. Soon after they reported that development in the inaugural issue of their newspaper, The Alabama Observer, administrators decided that the Observer could not be sent through campus mail. In Tuscaloosa, about 5,000 copies of the latest issue are instead being distributed on racks, Beito said.


El Bumpo
6 posted on 01/20/2004 10:50:22 AM PST by adam_az
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To: adam_az
What in the world does one do with a degree in Women's Studies?
7 posted on 01/20/2004 10:57:41 AM PST by Quilla
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To: Quilla
What in the world does one do with a degree in Women's Studies?

a) teach women's studies
b) be a collossal bore at parties

8 posted on 01/20/2004 10:59:30 AM PST by xm177e2 (Stalinists, Maoists, Ba'athists, Pacifists: Why are they always on the same side?)
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To: Captain Kirk
Did the university allow groups which were not "funded and managed by the university" to circulate unstamped mail through the campus mail system berfore the Alabama Observer appeared on the scene? If so, this move would seem to be politically motivated!
9 posted on 01/20/2004 11:00:00 AM PST by bourbon
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To: Quilla
"What in the world does one do with a degree in Women's Studies?"

Not formal logic, that's for sure. ;)
10 posted on 01/20/2004 11:00:14 AM PST by adam_az
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To: Captain Kirk
The education system needs overhauling if one can get past the RAT libs running the system.
11 posted on 01/20/2004 11:05:14 AM PST by lilylangtree
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To: Captain Kirk
Fendley also called the scholars association's handling of the data "shallow," because it didn't take other factors into account. Higher admission standards might be producing better students, Fendley said, or some teachers might be doing a better job of instruction.

Uh, yeah. No doubt the 'Women's Studies' department is just brimming with Merit Scholars, unlike those dumb old biologists across campus.

12 posted on 01/20/2004 11:06:33 AM PST by Sloth ("I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!" -- Jacobim Mugatu, 'Zoolander')
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To: Quilla
What in the world does one do with a degree in Women's Studies?

I've been studying women for years. Do they offer transfer credit for life experience?

13 posted on 01/20/2004 11:06:48 AM PST by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: headsonpikes
Here's the deal: Nobody would take Garbage Studies if it weren't an easy A. So, they have an intro course that every student takes and gets an A. Then they have some people get a major in it (even more get the easy minor) and it pulls up their GPA.

The disciplines themselves aren't academically rigorous, but if the courses were the least bit difficult, nobody would waste their time.

They compare the grade distribution to bio, but this course is even wussy compared to other courses in the humanities.

14 posted on 01/20/2004 11:07:48 AM PST by AmishDude
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To: Captain Kirk
"We're trying to follow the law," says the weasel admin-droid.

Is there any living person who believes this? I wonder if the campus chapter of, say, Womyn for Peace and Palestinian Resistance would be banned from the campus mail?

As for Women's Studies, majors in this field also have prospects in various government protective and mental health agencies, welfare and social work, and, especially, in the ever-burgeoning "diversity" industry. Practically every institution of any size, government or private, now has to have an "office of diversity planning" or something similar to make sure that every grievance group, real or imagined, gets its allocated share of the pie.

15 posted on 01/20/2004 11:18:24 AM PST by atomic conspiracy ( Anti-war movement: Roadkill on the highway to freedom.)
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To: Quilla
What in the world does one do with a degree in Women's Studies?

"Want fries with that, male chauvinist pig?"

16 posted on 01/20/2004 11:24:31 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Captain Kirk
Topping the list was the women's studies department, where the percentage of "A's" averaged more than 78 percent for freshman and sophomore courses, according to the group. For the Department of Biological Sciences, the comparable percentage was 11.5 percent.

Only 78% As? Must be some men taking those classes.

FWIW things are just the same at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. My Department (Chemistry) grades somewhere around a B minus average. Women Studies like to hand out mostly As.

17 posted on 01/20/2004 11:27:47 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Right Wing Professor
Actually, according to the ASA's study on grade distortion , it was generally higher, sometimes the class average was over 4.0 (because of A+s). There was one odd-ball semester in which the average was lower thus bringing it down to "only" A's for Women's Studies.

The College of Education is also terrible at nearly 60 percent A's in intro course..

18 posted on 01/20/2004 11:47:15 AM PST by Austin Willard Wright
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To: Quilla
Spend Friday nights at home.
19 posted on 01/20/2004 11:56:48 AM PST by jtminton (2Timothy 4:2)
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To: Right Wing Professor; All
LOL! Actually, all the answers to my question were superb.
20 posted on 01/20/2004 11:58:17 AM PST by Quilla
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To: Captain Kirk
"They were concluding something based on some very basic data for which they were not fully using other variables," he said.

Pop quiz.

Is this quote from: a) some snot-nosed pimply-faced college kid, or b) the Director of a research office?

21 posted on 01/20/2004 2:48:00 PM PST by facedown (Armed in the Heartland)
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To: Captain Kirk
Suppression of freedom of speech and expression coming from the liberal power mongers?!

How come I'm not surprised?
22 posted on 01/20/2004 2:52:50 PM PST by Tempest
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To: petitfour
PING.
23 posted on 01/20/2004 3:23:09 PM PST by bourbon
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To: bourbon
Thanks for the ping.

I'm not so surprised by the low grades in biology compared to the low grades in women's studies. The basic biology course is often taken by a majority of freshman seeking to fulfill their natural sciences requirement. Many of these students don't even show up for class. They take whatever grade they can get with little study time. Women's studies is not a required subject. Less people take it. There are usually attendance requirements. And because the classes are smaller, students are more likely to pay attention and do their work in order to not stand out as a doofus. The only times I showed up for Biology were the first day and the days of tests. I always attended labs. I did not do well for some reason. :()

I had Dr. Ultee for one of the Western Civ classes. He is a spastic nonconservative. And that is an understatement. There was no attendance requirement for any of the survey history courses (west civ I and II, us history I and II). Thus, many students did mediocre because they did not show up. I loved the classes in which the professors loved their subject and gave a darn about what the students learned.

I did not know Senator Shelby lives in Tuscaloosa.
24 posted on 01/21/2004 6:54:22 AM PST by petitfour
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To: petitfour
Your explanation does not account for the fact that even in advanced science classes, taken only by majors, the grades are generally lower than in women's studies.
25 posted on 01/21/2004 7:59:35 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: petitfour
I was a history major at UA and graduated in 1997. I think almost every class I took had a mandatory attendance policy, usually a severe one like if you miss 3 classes you fail the class. Also, the hardest class I took in college was a class taught by Kimball Armayor the classics prof. on Roman History. How hard was his class? A friend of mine, who ended up being a Rhodes Scholar got a "B" in his class. Also, when I took him, I heard that he hadn't given an "A" in any of his classes in two years.
26 posted on 01/21/2004 8:01:56 AM PST by bourbon
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To: Right Wing Professor
Hubby and I were just discussing this. One of his theories for this is that because women's studies is a relatively new department, there are not the same standards that you have in other well-established departments such as Chemistry or Biology. With Chemistry and Biology, undergraduates take classes that have set curricula and grades are based on a mastery of that material. With Women's Studies, profs are still deciding what are must-reads and must-know kinds of things.

On the other hand, it could be that Women's Studies departments are packed with liberal profs and liberal students, and they're all in one big love-fest.
27 posted on 01/21/2004 10:11:34 AM PST by petitfour
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To: bourbon
I took a Latin class from Armayor. Maybe his ear hair is what keeps him from being a push-over. :)
28 posted on 01/21/2004 10:15:10 AM PST by petitfour
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To: Captain Kirk
Liberals believe in diversity ... so long as that diversity falls within the political spectrum of Mao, Stalin, and Marx.
29 posted on 01/21/2004 10:15:13 AM PST by spodefly (This is my tagline. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: spodefly
Bump for free speech.
30 posted on 01/21/2004 11:07:52 AM PST by Austin Willard Wright
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To: Southack
Please ping other UA folks you know. Thanks!
31 posted on 01/21/2004 1:26:46 PM PST by bourbon
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To: bourbon
President Robert Witt at the University of Alabama can be contacted here .
32 posted on 01/22/2004 6:56:47 AM PST by Austin Willard Wright
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