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A CLASS STRUGGLE: Tenure of Avowed Marxist Controversy jolts College
Houston Chronicle ^ | March 24, 2002 | KEVIN MORAN

Posted on 03/24/2002 1:47:13 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife

"In a nutshell, it means I have a fundamental disagreement with capitalism," he said. "I think that capitalism is a system based on exploitation and oppression and domination and racism and war and lots of other things.

"So I'm totally opposed to capitalism, and I think that the majority of the people of this country ought to get together and transform the system," he said. "I think we need to replace capitalism with some kind of democratic socialism."

TEXAS CITY -- It rarely stirs up much of a fuss beyond the campus boundaries when a college board considers granting tenure to a professor.

However, the case of David Michael Smith -- avowed Marxist and unabashed critic of capitalism -- can indeed be called a rare one at College of the Mainland in this Galveston County town.

The 47-year-old Smith has attracted a small but vocal group of critics who say that, rather than receive job security, he should be fired.

That doesn't appear likely. The board is expected to approve his application for tenure Monday, or protection from firing for arbitrary reasons such as his political beliefs.

Opponents of Smith, an assistant government professor who joined the faculty in August 1998, say he has violated academic principles by pushing his political agenda in his classes.

He denies trying to indoctrinate students in Marxist philosophy in his classes but says he's not shy about expressing political views that few Texas academicians espouse.

Born in Salina, Kan., Smith received his three degrees at City University of New York and taught at the university's York College from 1985 until he joined College of the Mainland.

His specialties are political theory and American politics, and his classes are popular. He has been nominated as "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" each year since he arrived.

That doesn't carry much water with Howard Katz, who was 10 when he and his parents fled to the United States from Nazi Germany in 1936. Katz says he joined the Army as soon as he turned 17. He went to the Pacific but didn't see combat.

Katz, a former faculty member at the college, is among Smith's most outspoken critics.

"I lost both sets of grandparents in the Holocaust," he said. "I'm a strong defender of free speech and of academic freedom. David Smith has a right to stand on any corner and say anything he wants.

"But in a classroom, teachers are held to a higher standard by the principles of academic freedom."

What does being a Marxist mean to Smith?

"In a nutshell, it means I have a fundamental disagreement with capitalism," he said. "I think that capitalism is a system based on exploitation and oppression and domination and racism and war and lots of other things.

"So I'm totally opposed to capitalism, and I think that the majority of the people of this country ought to get together and transform the system," he said. "I think we need to replace capitalism with some kind of democratic socialism."

Smith's personal political beliefs didn't draw substantial public criticism until a guest column he had written appeared in the Galveston County Daily News on Sept. 20, when emotions were still running high after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In the column, he argued that dropping atomic bombs on Japan was not necessary to end World War II.

At least two other columns were written by others debating the issue, and many residents sent letters to the editor as the dispute heated up.

Then, in November, at a campus ceremony honoring veterans a few days before Veterans Day, some of Smith's students handed out fliers advertising a demonstration against the war in Afghanistan.

"It totally disrupted the Veterans Day celebration here," said Katz, 75, who lives in Houston.

Fifteen students later signed a letter that was published in a local newspaper, condemning the decision to hold the veterans' ceremony on campus. They likened the affair, attended by some college board members, to a formal endorsement of the war by the college.

"I can judge David Smith by his writings and the writings of his students," said Katz. "I read the letter by `sickened' students about us murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians every year, bombing innocent civilians and dropping cluster bombs that are dismembering children as if we were doing it deliberately. No other country has gone to the pains that we have to keep what they now call collateral damage to a minimum.

"They didn't get that at high school. They didn't get that at home, I don't think," Katz said. "There's only one place they could have gotten that, and that's in David Smith's class."

Smith said Katz misinterpreted the letter.

"What the students were pointing out is that the United States has, in fact, killed large numbers of people, whether it's in Korea, Vietnam, indirectly in Indonesia, more directly in Nicaragua and El Salvador," he said. "So the students were pointing to a history of U.S. imperialism, and that is something that more conservative folks don't want to admit."

Katz was among a half-dozen people, including former Galveston County Judge Ray Holbrook, who attended the college board's human resource committee meeting March 18 to oppose tenure for Smith.

Informed that that was not on the committee's agenda, the group promised to attend the board's meeting Monday.

While they'll get their say, they likely will go home unhappy.

Board members, who are elected, recently expressed general support for Smith and indicated that he'll win tenure based on his performance.

"We have nothing that says (Smith) is doing anything but what we've asked him to do, and he's doing it in an excellent, incredible way in the classroom," board President Ralph Holm told fellow members.

Board member James E. Butler said he believes Smith's opponents are trying to turn a purely academic issue into a political battle.

"I've been torn between keeping my mouth shut and fighting back against them," Butler said.

Katz and others believe Smith distorts history, leaving out details that don't fit his political views.

"He is disingenuous in citing authorities, and these authorities are only the ones supporting his views," said Katz, a former police officer who taught criminal justice courses at the college. "That is known, by any standard, as intellectual dishonesty and deceit."

Tenure is a longtime, and often controversial, policy in American higher education.

Among other functions, it "protects the instructor from termination of employment by an influential person or group for arbitrary reasons," said Dr. Homer "Butch" Hayes, College of the Mainland president.

To qualify for tenure, a faculty member must document to the satisfaction of a peer group that, among other qualities, he plans instruction well, provides classroom experimentation and innovation and improves instruction.

At this campus of 3,400 students, the faculty works in teams. If an instructor's team approves, it recommends tenure to Hayes. If Hayes agrees, he carries the recommendation to the board.

Hayes said he will recommend tenure for Smith on Monday.

Bob Young, an economics professor who leads the faculty team to which Smith belongs, said Smith's political views shouldn't be banned from the campus.

"I'm a veteran myself, and I don't remember ever being told that I was fighting for a single point of view or that, in the time I spent as a light-weapons infantryman, I was going to be exposed to only one set of ideas when I went to a university setting," said Young, who served in the Army in the 1960s and was stationed in South Korea. "I think these other veterans have a slightly different view of what America's all about."

Smith teaches two introductory courses on national and state government and an elective course in political science.

"In each of the courses, my syllabus sets out certain topics that I cover, and I certainly am honest about putting forth my own views," he said. "But I actively encourage people to question my views -- to express their own different views.

"Sometimes, a lot of the best learning is done by debate, discussion and disagreement," he said. "And one hallmark of my classes is that you can get extra credit by arguing with me during class. I think that's a good thing.

"We ask embarrassing, tough questions, like who is in the government, exactly whose interests are served by the government, what are the connections between business and government and what can working people do about it."

His politics don't include violence, he noted.

"Do I favor a small group of people going out and getting guns and attacking the government or anybody else? Of course not," he said.

Smith said he does support "radical or revolutionary social change."

"I think we need deep-seated, fundamental, systemic social change," he said. "But I believe it has to be done by a vast majority of the people, using a combination of electoral and (other) tactics."

He said he respects his critics' right to their opinions.

"But they are deeply misguided in trying to impose a political litmus test on faculty at College of the Mainland," Smith said. "Thankfully, the college has a long record of defending academic freedom in the face of controversy."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: academicbias; diversity; education; indoctrination; multiculturalism; nationalsecurity; schools; universities
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1 posted on 03/24/2002 1:47:13 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Can't dump an avowed communist...and we wonder how we got here.
2 posted on 03/24/2002 1:52:18 AM PST by Check6
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To: Check6
Exactly.
3 posted on 03/24/2002 1:58:21 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Opponents of Smith, an assistant government professor who joined the faculty in August 1998, say he has violated academic principles by pushing his political agenda in his classes.

In my considerable experience in “Higher Academia” this is the rule rather than the exception. A wonderful precedent to have the young minds of this country shaped by those who benefit from the freedoms this country provides yet detest America.

Owl _ Eagle
“Guns before butter.”

4 posted on 03/24/2002 2:00:41 AM PST by South Hawthorne
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
"I think we need deep-seated, fundamental, systemic social change," he said. "But I believe it has to be done by a vast majority of the people, using a combination of electoral and (other) tactics."

makes ya wonder what he means by "other"...

5 posted on 03/24/2002 2:07:54 AM PST by TxBec
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To: Owl_Eagle; All
A wonderful precedent to have the young minds of this country shaped by those who benefit from the freedoms this country provides yet detest America.

War dissent on campus: A problem or not?****Some commentators find the report alarming in a very different way than its authors intended: not as evidence of rot in the ivory tower, but as evidence of a climate in which free speech is threatened and criticism of US policies is labeled unpatriotic. Writing in USA Today, Don Campbell, a lecturer in journalism at Emory University in Atlanta, derides the council for sounding like ''a pack of Joe McCarthy wannabes.''

Critics accuse the council of making a mountain out of a molehill. They point out that antiwar fervor has been notoriously low on most campuses and dismiss the list as a mishmash of vague comments about breaking the cycle of violence and finding alternatives to war.****

Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It---"At a time of national crisis, I think it is particularly apparent that we need to encourage the study of our past. Our children and grandchildren-indeed, all of us-need to know the idea and ideals on which our nation has been built. We need to understand that living in liberty is such a precious thing that generations of men and women have been willing to sacrifice everything for it. We need to know, in a war, exactly what is at stake." Lynn Cheney, October 5, 2001

6 posted on 03/24/2002 2:08:14 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: TxBec
(other) tactics."

Did the columnist edit them out? It seems (other) indicates an edit.
Perhaps the editor cut out what the "other" tactics are.

7 posted on 03/24/2002 2:11:12 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: Cincinatus' Wife
He is disingenuous in citing authorities, and these authorities are only the ones supporting his views," said Katz, a former police officer who taught criminal justice courses at the college. "That is known, by any standard, as intellectual dishonesty and deceit."

This describes most of the major newspapers and tv networks, intellectualy dishonest and deceitful.

Tenure is a longtime, and often controversial, policy in American higher education.

Just in higher education? I don't think so. Has this person checked on elementary school teachers?

9 posted on 03/24/2002 2:19:12 AM PST by patj
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To: patj
I agree with you great remark about elementary schools and I'll add middle and high schools to that list of indoctrination places.

Communists Should Not Teach In American Colleges - 1949--[Excerpt] The question of whether a member of the Communist Party should be allowed to teach in an American college is by no means a simple one. Despite the fact that many persons in educational circles appear to find easy answers to this question, those of us who have examined the question most carefully perhaps find the answers more difficult.

The general outlines of the examination of this problem in the recent cases at the University of Washington are probably well enough known that they need not be reviewed in detail here. Suffice it to say that the question was surveyed from every angle and with every facility available to the administration and faculty of the University of Washington. The decision, while it may not be fully satisfactory to everyone concerned, is in my opinion the most thoroughly considered and best documented study of the relationship between Communism and higher education yet attempted in America.

Out of this long and painstaking examination I have come reluctantly to the conclusion that members of the Communist Party should not be allowed to teach in American colleges. I am now convinced that a member of the Communist Party is not a free man. Freedom, I believe is the most essential ingredient of American civilization and democracy. In the American scheme educational institutions are the foundation stones upon which real freedom rests. Educational institutions can prosper only as they maintain free teaching and research. To maintain free teaching and research the personnel of higher education must accept grave responsibilities and duties as well as the rights and privileges of the academic profession. A teacher must, therefore, be a free seeker after the truth. If, as Jefferson taught, the real purpose of education is to seek out and teach the truth wherever it may lead, then the first obligation and duty of the teacher is to be a free man. Any restraint on the teacher's freedom is an obstacle to the accomplishment of the most important purposes of education. [End Excerpt]

10 posted on 03/24/2002 2:26:53 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
When are these Marxist losers in academia going to realize they lost? I know; it's a rhetorical question. Marxism should be in the museum next to Fuedalism and Divine Right rule.
11 posted on 03/24/2002 2:31:53 AM PST by HDawg
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Tenure is a longtime, and often controversial, policy in American higher education

Tenure is, IMHO, one of the main failings of the American educational system. It removes, or greatly diminishes, accountability, competition, motivation and incentives to excel. Many of the best and the brightest go elsewhere, leaving a parking lot for the inept, unstable, unable and/or disenfranchised.

This was the case when I taught mathematics many decades ago and I suspect it hasn't changed much for the better.
12 posted on 03/24/2002 2:33:23 AM PST by pt17
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
This is not the scandal. The scandal is that surveys show something like 6% of U.S. university professors are republicans, with most of those in departments like engineering. And more than that, the scandal is that the liberal majority tends to grant tenure to liberals like themselves.

Professors should challenge students' beliefs. In a conservative state like Texas, it's probably a good thing for a few poly sci profs to be up front with their leftism; this may, in the long run, sharpen students' belief in capitalism by making it more self-aware. Similarly, black colleges and institutions in liberal states (i.e. most) should be seeking out conservatives to challenge dominent leftist views.

13 posted on 03/24/2002 2:39:38 AM PST by Steve Eisenberg
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
"I think that capitalism is a system based on exploitation and oppression and domination and racism and war and lots of other things.

If you have a basic problem with "winners" being generally more effective at the art of living than "losers", then Economic Liberty (which is what Capitalism is) will look a lot like this man's description to you. The Left is, in some basic sense, a revolt against reality---especially the reality of human difference.

14 posted on 03/24/2002 2:42:07 AM PST by Dan De Quille
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To: HDawg
When are these Marxist losers in academia going to realize they lost?

Have they? They've never stopped.
They usually aren't so blatant about their agenda. Parents don't pay attention and colleagues are usually like-minded
so they're with "the program." They're in the schools, in government and in the media. We must be vigilent and speak out.

15 posted on 03/24/2002 2:42:10 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Dan De Quille
The Left is, in some basic sense, a revolt against reality---especially the reality of human difference.

Yes. To realize their dream they will have to change the very nature of mankind, which they can't but they will continue
to pursue this sick doctrine by hook or by crook and regardless of how many people suffer because of their beliefs.

Look at Castro, he's had a nation locked up for 40 years trying to make it "work" and still he won't stop his insane experiment.

16 posted on 03/24/2002 2:48:15 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
David Michael Smith is a modern-day example of the 'useful idiots' that Communist hardliners laughed at when Communism was fashionable among American intelligentsia. We don't need more idiots in our colleges; our institutions of higher learning are already overrun by these fools.
17 posted on 03/24/2002 2:53:03 AM PST by abclily
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To: Steve Eisenberg
Professors should challenge students' beliefs. In a conservative state like Texas, it's probably a good thing for a few poly sci profs to be up front with their leftism; this may, in the long run, sharpen students' belief in capitalism by making it more self-aware. Similarly, black colleges and institutions in liberal states (i.e. most) should be seeking out conservatives to challenge dominent leftist views.

Why would they seek out conservatives when they are so content with the LIBERALS? Texas may be a conservative state but academia and institutions of higher, lower and inbetween learning are islands of LIBERAL group-think. Of course it's good to challenge kids to think but often a differing viewpoint is ridiculed and besides most of these students have been brought up on PC history and wouldn't know how to frame an opposing view point even if given the opportunity. They're like sponges soaking up these anti-American ideas.

18 posted on 03/24/2002 2:53:20 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: pt17
Tenure is, IMHO, one of the main failings of the American educational system. It removes, or greatly diminishes, accountability, competition, motivation and incentives to excel. Many of the best and the brightest go elsewhere, leaving a parking lot for the inept, unstable, unable and/or disenfranchised.

Bump!!

19 posted on 03/24/2002 2:54:09 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: abclily
. We don't need more idiots in our colleges; our institutions of higher learning are already overrun by these fools.

Time to draw the line.

20 posted on 03/24/2002 2:54:53 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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