In 2000, a group of about 175 raucous UC Berkeley students disrupted conservative author Daniel Flynn as he gave a speech about how he believed Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer, had conned millions into believing he was framed.
Disrupt is putting it modestly.
Anarchic chaos erupted in the auditorium as Flynn tried to turn up the audio on his microphone in a vain attempt to be heard. Students screamed obscenities at him, one man mooned him, another climbed onto the stage to write www.kkk.com on the chalkboard behind him.
In an article about the experience, Flynn noted that "in the intellectually cloistered world of Berkeley, students who have never encountered conservative ideas don't have the means to intellectually combat those ideas."
A recent report by the California Association of Scholars (CAS), an organization aiming to safeguarding universities from politicized curriculum and lowered academic standards, supports Flynn's observations.
The report entitled "Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California" looks at how the liberal politicization of the UC campuses is decreasing the graduate's ability to think objectively.
John M. Ellis, the president of CAS and a Professor Emeritus of German literature at UC Santa Cruz, said the trend has been on the rise for 30 years: "The tilt has gotten way more extreme in the last ten years, and we have reached a crisis point."
Ellis said the core issue is not whether the faculty members are biased toward the left or the right, but that they have turned their roles as professors into a platform for indoctrinating students with their own personal political agenda.
"Conservatives are more annoyed because the imbalance is obviously toward the left, but people on the left should be just as annoyed," Ellis said.
The study also shows just how large the imbalance is: The ratio of liberal to conservative faculty members is now 8:1. In the English department the ratio is dramatically higher at 88:3, and in the political science department the ratio is 81:2.
Ellis said this kind of imbalance does not produce intellectuals able to examine an intellectual idea from all angles: "They've excluded half of the spectrum of political ideas. In a healthy department there's a healthy debate."
Instead, the mindset of an academic teacher should be the opposite of a political activist: "Teachers want students to think independently. Radical activists want political conformity. Academic teachers want students to develop analytical skills, to probe through the pros and cons of controversial issues. A political activist doesn't want that because they might pick an idea that isn't his."
Dr. Sylvia Wasson, a Professor of German and English as a Second Language at Santa Rosa Junior College, has also witnessed the discouraging trend of decreasing intellectual competence at the community college level.
"Students tell me all the time that they have to go against their beliefs and write what they know a professor wants to hear because otherwise they won't get the good grade," said Wasson, a board member on CAS.
But some students say they have not experienced the kind of political zealot of a professor described in the study: "I don't recall ever feeling like a teacher has made me feel uncomfortable or has pushed a political view on me," said Sakia Sailinuu, a junior at UC Irvine.
The report also looked at UC course descriptions and noticed growing number of classes on topics such as race, gender, and sexual orientation rather than history or skills needed for the workforce.
As a result, Wasson said she now sees more bright students who are culturally illiterate: "I have discussions with students who have very little historical knowledge: They know very little about American founding, they can't place the Civil War in the right historical time period."
And the trend is not limited to UC schools: On a test given to seniors from the top 55 colleges and universities in the United States, 81 percent could not identify Valley Forge, words from the Gettysburg Address, or even the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution.
The report also contained a survey of over 400 employers across the country that reflects the employers' "growing frustrations over the lack of skills they see in new workforce entrants," particularly skills in written communication.
UC Provost Lawrence Pitts told the LA Times that he disagreed with the findings, and that "UC's scholarly success nationally and internationally would not be possible if our faculty were doctrinaire and not subject to having their work forged in the marketplace of ideas."
Wasson said this attitude of denial is to be expected: "The prevailing ideology amongst professors is to flat out deny these things are happening, to deny what is shown in this report, as you can see by the reaction that has already come from it, but I can tell you from the trenches that these things are happening."