Bruin Alumni Association

What the Radicals Are Saying About the Bruin Alumni Association

By Andrew Jones
September 11, 2005

     Not everybody likes the Bruin Alumni Association, or our ideas.  That much is hardly a surprise.

    But, following a recent email soliciting public support, we received a large number of, shall we say, hostile responses, which show exactly what we are up against.

    The following are a three emails of particular interest (all from UCLA alums), along with my responses.

    From a class of '79 alumnus:
    "When I went to UCLA, the radicals, conservatives and everyone else co-existed and people got to hear both sides of the issues, with student and faculty and staff given the opportunity to hear all kind of views, both inside and outside the classroom, where folks had the option to listen or to walk away. When I was at UCLA one day Louis Farrakhan could give a speech on campus, followed a couple of days later by Lou Sheldon and Anita Bryant followed by Tom Hayden.   Does your organization advocate the banning of individuals and organizations that don't share your views?"

    I don't think we have much to disagree about, despite what this fellow might think.  If at some point in the past the campus was operating as an open forum for political discussion and debate, then that's exactly what UCLA needs to restore - because it's exactly what UCLA does not have right now.  Witness last year's Michael Moore fiasco.  Moore, an extreme polemicist for the Left, was given student funds to come speak at the event.  By contrast, student government funds - contributed by ALL students - have not covered the speaking fees of a single conservative speaker, dating back to, at minimum, 1999.

    The BAA would have no problems if a Michael Moore were followed by a David Horowitz or a Dinesh D'Souza - all funded by student fees.  Likewise, there really wouldn't even be any problem if none of those speakers received payment from student government funds.  But that would in turn require that no speaker of any political persuasion ever receive UCLA money.  Given the impracticality of that particular plan, UCLA would do better to make a committment to equal time, at least where student fees are concerned.

    And in response to his last question, the BAA most certainly does not advocate the banning of individuals or organizations that don't share our views.  Indeed, it's a ridiculous question given our complete inability to accomplish such a ban.  But it's not a "ban" if we oppose the funding of Moore because UCLA student government won't fund the appearance of a countervailing perspective to that of Michael Moore.  That's called standing up for balance.

    Just as importantly, we don't agree with the author's presumption that the classroom is a marketplace for professors to sell their personal views.  In a given class, it is the professor's responsibility to present all major views on a topic, without spin or favoritism, and allow the student to decide.

    To have an absurd "market system" where one goes to conservative professors only to hear conservative teaching, and to liberals only to hear liberal teaching, makes a mockery of UCLA, and of common sense.  What of the conservative student who needs a particular class taught by a particular radical professor in order to graduate or to simply proceed within his major?  Must he listen to a professor push his personal political opinions?  Must he tailor his essays and classroom comments to agree with the professor, who, it must be emphasized, holds grading power over said student?

    This writer endorses a de facto system of bias-shopping - a system utterly unworthy of a great school like UCLA.  If politics are an integral part of the course, let them be taught in a non-partisan manner (surely professors are smart and professional enough to swallow their politics if such a desperately-needed policy were enacted).  And if a course has nothing to do with Bush, keep your political comments to yourself.  Express them via talk radio, express them to the streets, just express them on your own time - and check your politics at the lecture hall door.

    From another alumnus, this time, from the early '90s:

    "Do you even see the hypocrisy in this email?  You're dissing liberals by saying they don't have the right to deliver their message or take actions to accomplish what they feel is best for the school.  Yet, you're emailing people with your political agenda, trying to take action for what you feel is best for the school?
    How is that you're any different?  You're doing the exact same thing.
    UCLA is a public school.  Therefore, you'll find very liberal teachers and very conservative teachers.  That's the point of a public school.  You should have gone to a private school if you wanted close-minded arguments.
    You slam affirmative action, yet you're demanding a form of it to help conservatives.  So affirmative actions for minorites = bad.  Affirmative action for conservatives = good.  Again, do you even seen the hypocrisy in your own arguments?"
    As a UCLA student, the only anti-Semitism I ever experienced came from Christians.  I had my dorm door vandalized with an upside down cross.  It was done by Bruin Christians who had done it to other students.
    You're email is insulting, close-minded, and completely ignorant.  You sound foolish.  Please stop insulting the institution I hold dear."

    I responded at length:

    "- Where in my email do I say liberals don't have a right to deliver their message?

Liberal professors do not have a right to indoctrinate their students.  But liberal students are free to use reason and discussion to convince anyone of their points of view - where appropriate.  That doesn't mean beating up on conservative counterprotesters during an anti-war march.

    Liberals have a vision for what is best for UCLA, as does the BAA.  Let the best ideas win.  So no, no hypocrisy there.

    - The point of a public school, especially one of UCLA's stature, is to find the very best teachers.  Typically, teaching and research excellence, all other things being equal, will be distributed roughly evenly across the political spectrum.  But your argument seems to equate the very presence of some "very liberal teachers and very conservative teachers" as equaling balance.  Morevoer, you endorse the idea that diversity of professor background is a good idea.

    Wrong.  The best professors can and should give no indication of their personal biases.  The baseball umpire's philosophy should prevail - that is, the best-called game is one in which the umpire is for all purposes invisible.  Likewise, the best professor should showcase their teaching skills - which includes teaching both sides of every important social issue - and not their personal politics, be they liberal or conservative.

    The status quo at UCLA is for professors to bring their politics into the classroom and make them an active point of discussion.  Worse yet, these personal views become an unstated expectation underlying everything that happens in the class - discussion, lectures, student comments, and all graded activities.

    - Where do I demand a form of affirmative action for conservatives?  Talk about a straw man argument!

    - Your dorm room door was vandalized by an upside-down unnamed Bruin Christians.  Without telling me anything more, this is purely an anecdote on your part - its veracity unknowable.

    As an anecdote, it holds no more weight than my recent experience, which is that the only anti-Semitism on campus is coming from leftist radicals who hate the state of Israel.  Chief among these zealots are the members of the Muslim Student Association who every year hold an 'anti-Zionism week' - which devolves into a kaffiyeh-clad festival of Jew-hatred.

    Meanwhile, the predominantly Christian membership of the Bruin Republicans was the only non-Jewish campus group to stand with Bruins for Israel during the Israeli Independence Week rally of 2001.  This is a relationship which has blossomed since 9/11 with the growing recognition that the battle Israel faces now is a window into a possible future of America's should we not win the War on Terror.

    Moreover, on a national level, who has been a huge advocate for Jews in general and Israel in particular?  None other than that fiendish Christian (and Republican!) devil, President George W. Bush.

    Was there Christian anti-Semitism on the UCLA campus at some point in the past?  I can't speak to that.  Anti-Semitism has been an unfortunate problem throughout history.  But for someone who experienced anti-Semitism, your solution ('Leave the radicals alone') is a prescription for more anti-Semitism, not less.  Perhaps in isolated cases from the past, Christian UCLA students engaged in anti-Jewish activities.  But the only two groups guilty of that now are on your side - general radicals, and radical Muslims.

    Lastly was a letter from a 1990 alumna, who scolded:

    "I am a proud alumna of UCLA, having received my BA in 1990. One of my
first experiences on campus was a political rally denouncing the apartheid
system then in place in South Africa.
    College campuses have long had a venerable history of passionate social
activism. I am sorry that you apparantly find this offensive."

    A debate coach would highlight this response as a textbook case of misrepresentation.  We're most definitely aware that the anti-war side is engaged in passionate activism.  That's not what the BAA has a problem with.  The BAA has a problem with the specific goals bring pursued, and the violent, divisive methods the radicals employ in that pursuit. 

    Did the BAA's email condemn all activism?  No, it condemned radical activism, because it is objectively wrong.  Despite having attended UCLA, I didn't become one of the graduates who, by the end had become so open-minded that his brains had fallen out.  There's still right; there's still wrong.  That's why the BAA would applaud the Israeli Independence Week activities - because they're right - and condemn the Muslim Student Association's Anti-Zionism Week activities - because they're wrong.

While it seems nearly impossible, the quality of discourse in the dozens of other responses was at an even lower level than the three featured above.  Most launched into irrelevant Bush-bashing.  They assume, falsely, that the BAA is only for Republicans, when in fact, it's a valuable resource for any member of the UCLA community or the public in general who 's concerned with the extreme radicalism which currently dominates campus life.

    The other factor characterizing the responses was the constant employment of expletives, and a general tone of hostility.  But I didn't need email responses to tell me that political radicals are angry.  To do that, I can just drive up to UCLA and listen to any one of a number of professors.  And they won't (usually) use explitives.