- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

TEXAS CITY, Texas A self-proclaimed Marxist professor who has spoken strongly against American foreign policy and riled many citizens in this southeast Texas town was granted tenure yesterday after a heated three-hour meeting.
"I feel wonderful," David Michael Smith, 47, an assistant government professor at College of the Mainland, said after the meeting adjourned. The case, he said, "boiled down to vehement opposition to my political perspective. But this is not the McCarthy period, and our college policy does not include a criterion of political correctness."
Thirty-three spoke in favor of Mr. Smith's tenure, 10 against.
The vote was 7-0.
Homer "Butch" Hayes, president of the community college of almost 14,000 full- and part-time students, said he was "proud of the college" for its stand, calling Mr. Smith "an outstanding teacher."
"As I told several who wanted this man fired, today was the perfect example of why college professors need tenure: to protect them from such an uprising in the community," Mr. Hayes said.
A handful of vocal protesters one of them a former professor at the college, another a former county judge adamantly opposed tenure for Mr. Smith, claiming that he "inflicted" Marxist and anti-American views on students in his classes.
Mr. Smith's personal beliefs alien to many in this conservative blue-collar city began drawing criticism nine days after the September 11 terrorist attacks when, in a Galveston County Daily News guest column, he questioned the U.S. war efforts.
In the column, he also said that the United States did not need to drop atomic bombs on Japan to win World War II.
A few weeks later, in a Veterans Day ceremony on campus here, some of Mr. Smith's students passed out fliers advertising a demonstration against the war in Afghanistan.
Fifteen students later signed a letter to a local newspaper condemning the college endorsement of the veterans ceremony.
That was the last straw for Howard Katz, 75, a retired faculty member now living in Houston.
"I can judge David Smith by his writings and the writings of his students," said Mr. Katz, who served in the Army in World War II after escaping from Nazi Germany with his family in the mid-1930s.
He said he read the letter the students wrote with disgust, "about us murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians every year, bombing innocent civilians and dropping cluster bombs that are dismembering children as if we were doing it deliberately. No other country has gone to the pains that we have to keep what they now call collateral damage to a minimum."
The college president said Mr. Smith was a "challenging" educator.
"We should be able to exchange ideas that are different," he said.
Mr. Smith teaches political theory and American politics. He earned his three degrees from City College of New York and taught at the university's York College from 1985 until he joined the Texas City college in August 1998.
He called the ruckus "politics," saying his detractors do not know what goes on in his class.
"My critics are unable to challenge my record of teaching or service to the college. Their real problem with me is that they disagree with me politically."
"I have a fundamental disagreement with capitalism," Mr. Smith said in answer to a question about his Marxist beliefs. "I think that capitalism is a system based on exploitation and oppression and domination and racism and war and lots of other things."
"I am certainly honest about my views in my courses," he said, "but I actively encourage people to question my views to express their own different views."
Mr. Katz said he was not anti-free speech. He told the school board that "by granting [Mr. Smith] tenure, you will put a stamp of approval on his manipulating the gullible and poisoning the minds of impressionable students, and you will be making a mockery of academic freedom."
"He's a controversial person," said Bob Young, an economics professor and chairman of the social sciences team that recommended tenure for Mr. Smith. "That's part of a college education."


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