Lessons to the Left

Young conservatives start to monitor liberal college profs

Warren Burggren is the dean of arts and sciences at UNT. He wonders if a student's perception of bias is based on the professor's taking a deliberately provocative or counterview to elicit response from the classroom. "The truth is there is a great deal of academic freedom allowed," he says. The question is one's aim in taking this approach, he says.

The YCT's Dial has wondered the same thing.

Provocative views or counterviews are "perfectly legitimate" tools by which to learn, Dial says, as long as a counterargument is given, or the opinion somehow wraps itself around a larger theme.

Brown: He just wants students to have their say about profs.
Mark Graham
Brown: He just wants students to have their say about profs.

But that isn't always the case, he says.

Last spring, Dial took a course from the communication studies department. It dealt with the freedom-of-speech movement and Supreme Court cases that have protected its mandates.

One day, while discussing Vietnam and symbolic speech, the professor, John Gossett, told the class how some dodged the draft, Dial says. The lecture devolved into what Dial describes as a "how-to" lesson in avoiding a future draft.

Gossett, Dial says, told the class that once you're drafted, the military makes you take an oath. To accept this oath, you must step forward. In stepping forward, you go from civilian law to military law. "Whatever you do," Dial remembers Gossett telling the class, "don't step forward."

Dial says he does not see a correlation between symbolic speech and refusing to step forward.

Gossett is recovering from surgery and was unavailable for comment.

As for the Houston area, professors can relax -- at least for now. The nearest watch list is planned for the main Texas A&M campus.

Kinghorn estimated there are a "few hundred" members in the YCT's 11 university chapters -- none of them in Houston. One YCT member will attend grad school in the fall at the University of Houston, raising hopes of the group to establish a beachhead there, says state chairman David Rushing.

The lack of a chapter doesn't mean the city and its universities are a hotbed of liberals or oblivious to conservative attitudes, Kinghorn insists.

"UH is largely a commuter school, which makes it rough to get something going," he says. "And Rice is just so small. It is hard to get a contact there, and the culture there is kind of different.

"We've found that people there aren't as willing to rock the boat, so to speak," Kinghorn says about Rice. "They just go about their business."

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