March 04, 2005

Urban legends in academia?

Did you hear the story about the college professor who asked his class to write a mid-term essay on “Why George Bush is a war criminal,� and then gave an F grade to a student who had been offended by the assignment and had instead turned in one on “Why Saddam Hussein is a war criminal�?

I wrote about this in an op-ed piece that appeared in today’s (March 4, 2005) Plain Dealer.

You will be asked by the site to fill in your zip-code, year of birth, and gender for some kind of demographic survey. It takes about 10 seconds.

Update on 3/14/05

I received a call today from a person associated with Students for Academic Freedom informing me that this op-ed had triggered the release of more information on their website, where more details are given.

Although the student referred to had not in fact given this testimony at the Colorado Senate hearings as had been alleged earlier, the level of detail (which had not been released until now) provided on the SAF website is sufficient to remove this story from the category of urban legends since it does give some names and places and dates. But a judgment on whether this constitutes academic bullying will have to await the release of the facts of the case on what actually transpired between professor and student. My contact at SAF says that the incident is still under investigation.

Update on the update (3/15/05): It gets curioser and curioser.

The blog Canadian Cynic reports that new information on this case has come out and that Horowitz is now backtracking on almost all of the key charges that were originally made. Canadian Cynic highlights Horowitz's statements now that "Some Of Our Facts Were Wrong; Our Point Was Right" and ""I consider this an important matter and will get to the bottom of it even if it should mean withdrawing the claim."

See the article on the website Inside Higher Education. It seems to be the most authoritative source of information on this case.


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...ward churchill is an urban myth too

Posted by pat on March 4, 2005 07:46 PM

I enjoyed the PD piece. I suspected that the tale was an urban legend, and am glad you have found no reason to think it is true. However, I am distressed that the widely circulated story carries a heavy load: accusing Academia of being part of a liberal plot to lead young people astray from the ultra-conservative agenda (which I, in turn, fear is trying hard to turn our country into a theocracy).

Posted by Virginia Benade Belveal on March 7, 2005 11:17 AM

I certainly don't know whether the story is true or not. But if Horowitz is the one spreading it and I wanted to find out whether it is true or not, I would have written him and asked if he could substantiate it. Has anyone done that?

Posted by Roscoe on March 13, 2005 06:07 PM