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2004-09-27

University of Arizona Professor Reported to FBI for "Hating" America

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After a series of ads in the University of Arizona newspaper railed against left-wing professors, a student allegedly reported Professor David Gibbs to the FBI for being "an anti-American communist who hates America." [includes rush transcript]

A series of ads have been running in student newspapers across the country charging that universities are dominated by liberal or left-wing professors. The ads are paid for by well-funded groups like Students for Academic Freedom and the Independent Women’s Forum. Some of the ads encourage students to report any so-called anti-American faculty or statements made by professors. And that is apparently what happened to David Gibbs, an Associate professor of History and Sociology at the University of Arizona. After his Spring course "What is Politics?", a student wrote the following on an anonymous evaluation form:

"I believe that the university should check into David Gibbs. He is an anti-American communist who hates America and is trying to brainwash young people into thinking America sucks. He needs to go and live in a Third World country to appreciate what he has here. Have him investigated by the FBI. FBI has been contacted."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by professor David Gibbs. Associate Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Arizona. David Gibbs, this will be the first part of our conversation in the last few minutes. What happened in your class? What did you say and what did your student do?

PROFESSOR DAVID GIBBS: Well, I teach a class, a large freshman class called, "What is Politics?" that focuses on propaganda and deception, and I emphasize incidents of the government lying and things like that. The semester that I taught it, which was last spring, the Independent Women’s Forum being a — the conservative activist group put into the local newspaper, a local student newspaper, an advertisement that basically argued that there’s a kind of left wing domination of the universities and students should fight that with the strong implication they should monitor their professors and report them, at least that’s how I read it. And that semester I began getting instances of that happening, specifically on my evaluation. I got, for example, a student who said I’m anti-American communist who hates America and is trying to brainwash young people into thinking that America sucks. I should be investigated by the FBI, and the FBI has been contacted. Another student on a weblog during the summer said he took my class and also said that he didn’t like my politics and suggests that students shouldn’t take my class but should drop by and try to disrupt it. There have been a number of instances like that which I hadn’t had before.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean if a student were to report you? What happens then?

PROFESSOR DAVID GIBBS: I don’t really know whether or not the FBI was in fact contacted, I cannot say. I’m not particularly losing sleep over the prospect of an 18-year-old calling the FBI about my politics. I think, though, it’s indicative of a larger national trend, which is conservative activist groups with lots of money and connections to the Republican Party trying to encourage and even to some extent orchestrate students and local conservative groups like those at the University of Arizona to go and basically harass faculty if they don’t like their politics.

AMY GOODMAN: Does it change what you do?

PROFESSOR DAVID GIBBS: It hasn’t changed what I do, no. Whether it does with other faculty, I cannot say. Yeah, this is a group Independent Women’s Forum. I looked on the website, and they’re putting these ads similar to the one put in the University of Arizona Wildcat and student newspapers across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s a full-page ad that says, "Top ten things your professors do to skew you. They push their political views, liberal opinions dominate, they don’t present both sides of the debate, conservative viewpoints practically non-existent. Classrooms are for learning, not brainwashing. They force you to check your intellectual honesty at the door. They make you uncomfortable if you disagree. Grading should be based on facts not opinion. Education? More like indoctrination." That’s the ad. We’ll continue our conversation after the show and broadcast it later on Democracy Now! Professor Gibbs, thank you for being with us.

PROFESSOR DAVID GIBBS: Thank you.

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