By James Clark
Politics & Culture Reporter
There’s a palpable tension in the air, a cocktail of animosity and intrigue generated by students, faculty and community members who are mobbed outside of the one open door leading into Baskin Engineering 101. Signs made from blue and red construction paper on the windows read “No Cameras or Photographs,” and backpacks are searched at the door.
People wielding signs made from recently torn cardboard boxes and drawn on with Sharpie markers form a semicircle behind the crowd. They chant in unison, sometimes at, and sometimes for, the crowd: “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, right-wing bigots, go away!”
Whether angered or empowered, they are here because David Horowitz has come to UC Santa Cruz. A well-known conservative activist and writer, Horowitz became especially controversial at UCSC after writing an article entitled “The Worst School in America.”
The piece criticized UCSC’s liberal arts departments, specifically feminist and community studies, accusing them of political indoctrination.
In anticipation of Horowitz’s visit on May 27, UCSC students organized a teach-in to counter his speech.
Conklin Swebbs and Leah Blair were among students protesting Horowitz’s visit to UCSC.
“The point of this was to inform others of the teach-in, that’s why we have an intentionally small presence,” Blair said.
However, not all students found the protest informative. A third-year history major who wished to remain anonymous commented, “I think that Horowitz is expecting this kind of reaction. The only way to really shut him down is academically.”
Jamal Atiba, the Student Union Assembly’s commissioner of academic affairs, was contacted by UCSC’s College Republicans in order to bring Horowitz to UCSC to speak about academic freedom. Atiba said the group made a “make-or-break request” for $400 from his discretionary budget from student fees, which were needed to bring Horowitz to campus. Although Horowitz is a controversial figure whose presence would likely spark a negative response from the majority of students, the request met all the required parameters, so Atiba agreed to provide the funds.
“I don’t want to set a precedent for the students in power to be able to stipulate who can speak and who can’t,” Atiba said, touching on the issue of the underrepresentation of conservative viewpoints at UCSC, a point that Horowitz addressed early in his lecture.
“You can’t get a good education if you’re only telling half of the story, even if you’re paying $20,000 a year,” Horowitz said during his speech. “It’s bad enough that you only have leftist professors, but in most courses I’ve looked at in community and feminist studies, you only have one set of textbooks.”
A key issue that Horowitz addressed was that of indoctrination, and the place of political opinions in academia.
“In the social sciences, liberal arts and humanities, the opinion rules,” Horowitz said. “When you’re getting one side of the opinion, what you’re getting is an indoctrination, you’re being trained in one side of the ideology.”
“The whole point of a university is to examine the ideologies, you may come out as a leftist, but at least you examined the ideologies,” Horowitz added.
Equal representation of one’s views is an issue that Horowitz and the individuals cited in his article are trying to remedy.
Paul Ortiz is a UCSC community studies professor who was referenced in Horowitz’s article about UCSC. After hearing about Horowitz’s piece and seeing his interview on television, Ortiz attempted to provide the other side of the story.
Last fall, he attempted to contact FOX News.
“I asked FOX News for fair and equal time to address Horowitz’s attack on the educational integrity of our university,” Ortiz said. “My feeling is that [FOX News] invited Horowitz on and was not interested in hearing a response from anyone from UCSC at that time.”
Ortiz wasn’t alone in his desire to present the other side of the story. What began as a Facebook group entitled “Oppose David Horowitz at UCSC” quickly became a student-run event aimed at addressing the issues brought up by Horowitz in his article. The event occurred at the same time as Horowitz’s lecture and focused on the same theme — academic freedom.
As one of the guest speakers, Ortiz addressed the purpose of the event.
“This is a student event, student-organized in the form of a teach-in, and is going to give us a chance to talk about his research and we’ll talk about ‘The Worst School in America’ which is based on false research,” Ortiz said. “The teach-in is the opportunity to present ideas and research and to allow people to decide for themselves.”
In a moderated question-and-answer session at the end of his speech, Horowitz addressed the issue of bias in academia and classes, and how to move beyond it. “What you need to demand is that in your courses where there is a matter of controversy, the controversy is taught, and not just one side of it,” Horowitz said. “When you’re in a course like politics or women’s studies you get to see critics as well as the orthodoxies.”
Horowitz’s article, which was a key topic at both events, was also discussed at his lecture. One student asked what research was used to determine why UCSC is the worst school in America.
“I interviewed maybe four or five students, three of whom were seniors. I asked simple questions like whether they had had to read a book that was written by a conservative,” Horowitz said. “I wrote a paper, I didn’t say that I made a scientific study.”
_Matt Skenazy and Jono Kinkade contributed to this article._