Lib-listing, a mongrel cousin of blacklisting, has come to America's campuses. A new right-wing organization called Accuracy in Academia is recruiting college students to monitor professors' words or otherwise test their saliva to be sure it is not moist with unfit ideology. The group's president has estimated that 10,000 Marxists are teaching on college campuses.
In the first AIA newsletter, an Arizona State University professor, Mark Reader, gets a lashing for his freshman course "Political Science 101." Accuracy in Academia, having received a report from one member of the 200-student class, charges that "deceptive labeling" is going on.
The college catalogue describes the survey course as covering such political ideologies as Marxism, liberalism, conservatism and democracy. AIA, its nostrils widening in sniffing out heresy, says that "the unsuspecting freshman who signs up for Prof. Reader's course quickly finds that there are more important things on the professor's mind than teaching about democracy or even Marxism."
The student monitor, who is called "our reporter" by AIA, was apparently one of the unsuspecting ones. AIA reports: "In the first 10 lectures he attended he learned nothing about political ideologies, but he heard a lot about the evils of the nuclear age." What the 199 other students think of Prof. Reader isn't known.
In AIA's first newsletter, founder Reed Irvine, who grandiosely advises readers to save the report because "some day it may be a collector's item," preens himself as the savior of college kids. Students won't complain to the administrations, he claims, because they are "looking for a good grade from the professor and not knowledgeable enough to detect misinformation." Presumably, AIA's informers are.
Irvine doesn't say which students he's been talking to lately, but I invite him to stand in the hallways outside of the two classes I currently teach to 230 students at American University. The first lad he can speak with is Vincent Farhat, one of my A students who is also head of the American University chapter of Young Republicans.
Last week, Farhat asked if he could address the class briefly. I gave him the microphone. With characteristic eloquence, he said that he wished to dissociate himself from Irvine's group. A few days before, the 17-member board of the campus Young Republicans voted unanimously to have nothing to do with AIA. Farhat told the class that he was eager to sign a petition about to be circulated. It said: "We condemn and deplore the recent attempts by AIA to monitor our professors."
Farhat is from Pasadena, Calif. He accepts it as one of fate's tortures that Jane Fonda lives in the neighborhood and that he is represented in the state assembly by her husband Tom Hayden. He is less accepting of the larger pain in the neck that Irvine represents. Farhat's young Republicanism wants none of it: "AIA contradicts its purpose, which is to promote free discussion in the classroom. Yet it often seeks to intimidate professors, which stifles discussion."
After Farhat, Irvine should stay around for another of my live-wire students, Todd Hansen. He is the campus chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom, a national conservative group that flutters as one of the outermost feathers of the right wing.
Hansen, who practices the Republican work ethic by earning tuition money as an attendant at the U.S. Senate parking lot, says Irvine is out of touch with the people he claims to represent. Hansen refers to a recent Irvine comment in The Washington Post: "It seems to be pretty well established that liberal-arts colleges are hotbeds of liberalism and turn out little liberals who go knee-jerking their way through life." Hansen, with no orthopedic problems other than a back that can't be strained with the heavy nonsense of fellow conservatives, disagrees. "Colleges are not training students one way or the other. The fact that an overwhelming majority of college students in America -- over 70 percent -- said they voted for Reagan makes it clear that we have open minds."
I said I would allow Irvine to stand in the hallways outside my classes. That's better than he deserves. I would invite him into the class except that with the campus' two leading conservatives looking to get their money's worth, I won't risk taking the time from our peace-studies curriculum. We have covered King, Gandhi, Tolstoy and other models of dissent who taught nonviolent revolution. Still to come are Rankin, Addams, Muste, Berrigan and, for sure, the War Resisters League and the Plowshares 12.
I owe it to the students -- young Republicans, young liberals, young whatevers -- to use the semester well. I would chance having Irvine come in, but the class is being monitored by 230 students -- monitored for quality. Room is made for ideas, not idea-bashing.