Tuesday, February 3, 2004

BOULDER, Colo. — A few years ago, Jeff O’Holleran said he began to realize that he was different from the other boys he knew.

“I started having certain thoughts,” said Mr. O’Holleran, 19, a student at the University of Colorado (CU). “I would go out into my mom’s car, turn it on auxiliary and listen to Rush Limbaugh.”

Yesterday, he said, it was time to come out of the closet. In the middle of a crowded university dining area, he took to the podium and announced, “I’m Jeff, and I’m a conservative.”

His tongue-in-cheek revelation came during yesterday’s “Conservative Coming-Out Day,” an event sponsored by the College Republicans that combined a mischievous sense of humor with a serious message on academic bias.

“We have some of the best professors in the world here at CU, but some of them are here to indoctrinate us,” said Brad Jones, College Republicans chairman. “What we’re talking about is diversity of thought, and a lot of professors don’t believe in [that].”

The event kicked off the club’s “Conservative Coming Out Month,” which will feature conservative speakers and intends to fuel a statewide conservative assault on liberal bias in academia.

Colorado became ground zero for a nationwide debate last summer when conservative writer David Horowitz met with Republican Gov. Bill Owens and other top Republican leaders to promote his Academic Bill of Rights, an eight-point manifesto that seeks to eliminate political bias in university hiring and grading.

Opponents called it an attempt to enact quotas for conservatives, a charge that Mr. Horowitz adamantly denies. The state General Assembly is considering a bill that would prohibit professors from discriminating against students based on their political and religious beliefs.

“It’s a professorial-abuse bill,” said Republican state Rep. Shawn Mitchell, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s to cover those cases where a professor crosses the line and bullies students.”

The bill’s critics say it would discourage faculty recruitment and place a chill on classroom discussions. A hearing on the legislation is scheduled for Feb. 18.

At the university, known as a hotbed of liberal activism, Republican students said they routinely encounter hostility to their views, sometimes in the classroom, but also among their peers.

“I knew I was the one they were talking about when they talk about mean, ugly, vile conservatives,” said Casey Parks, a 20-year-old sophomore. “I’m just thankful for the College Republicans for giving us this one day where it’s safe to be a Republican in Boulder.”

The faculty bias is usually more subtle, students said. Mr. O’Holleran said some professors won’t discuss their views, but they’ll advance their opinions through guest speakers.

“They bring in guest speakers and all the guest speakers are liberal, so that the professors aren’t the ones saying it,” he said. “We’re just asking for balance.”

Mr. Jones said the College Republicans, who number about 600 at a campus of 29,000 students, have established a place on the club’s Web site to report professorial indoctrination.

“Have you ever taken a test where you knew there was only one right answer? Even though there were really two or three?” Mr. Jones asked. “If you’ve been in a class where the professor acted inappropriately, report the incidents to our Web site.”

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