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UCLA Magazine Winter 2004
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Winter 2004
Too Liberal?
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Conservatives, for their part, object that far too many members of the faculty are moral relativists who eschew notions of good and evil and don't believe that certain immutable truths in Western thought are worth preserving. Worse, liberal faculty teach students to view religious and patriotic values with suspicion. That, in any case, is the central idea behind Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, a book written by Ben Shapiro '04 and published earlier this year. Shapiro claims that while he was a student at UCLA in 2002, he was fired as a columnist for the Daily Bruin. The reason, according to Shapiro, was that he went on a local radio talk show and criticized UCLA's "pro-Muslim stance" a reference to the Bruin's refusal to publish two of his columns against a Muslim-student organization on campus that Shapiro asserted supports terrorism.

In his book, Shapiro names scores of professors in academia whom he calls liberal. One of them is Lynn Vavreck, an associate professor of political science who teaches a popular introductory course on American politics at UCLA. Anyone entering her office in Bunche Hall will quickly notice two framed photographs on the bookshelf of Vavreck with President Ronald Reagan in 1989 and President George W. Bush in 2000. If Vavreck is politically conservative, as the photographs might suggest, why would Shapiro label her as one of the most liberal professors in the nation?

The answer is that Vavreck is not politically conservative she's a self-admitted centrist, conservative on some issues, liberal on others. The fact that she's on a conservative's blacklist, she says, shows how easy it is to miscast people as liberal or conservative. And yet, says Vavreck, "the polarity between conservatives and liberals in academia is real. There definitely are conservative people and liberal people."

Another professor Shapiro has accused of liberal bias is Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost and dean of the UCLA International Institute. Since 9/11, as part of the institute's Middle East programming, Garrett has hosted speakers on campus ranging from Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard and author of the book The Case for Israel, to the late Columbia University professor and vocal supporter of Palestinian statehood Edward Said.

Rather than being one-sided, Garrett asserts that the institute's programming has demonstrably taken the middle ground, presenting both sides of the arguments that are raging in the volatile Middle East. "I am proud of the balance and quality we have achieved on these very difficult but critical matters," he says.


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