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Academics Should Not Focus on P.C.

Political Correctness Overshadows the 'Western Tradition,' Conservatives Say

By Abigail R. Rezneck

At a national conference hosted by the Harvard Conservative Club, the president of the First Amendment Coalition (FAC) yesterday called on the academic community to focus on "the Western tradition" and not to capitulate to political correctness.

"We must immerse ourselves in that great body of literature called the Western tradition, whose...themes are liberty and freedom," said David Gentry, president and co-founder of FAC.

"We must challenge the idealogues of P.C. hell," Gentry added.

About 100 students, faculty and alumni from around the country attended the all-day conference, which took place at the Sheraton Commander Hotel. The FAC, a self-described centrist, non-profit organization committed to the protection of First Amendment freedoms on university campuses, sponsored the event.

"In all the frenzy over multiculturalism, Western culture has been over-shadowed," said G. Brent McGuire '95, president of the Conservative Club, in an interview last night. McGuire was a panel member at the conference.

Meanwhile, the University Conversion Project (UCP), a national organization devoted to campus activism and investigative journalism, denounced the FAC's conference at a press conference in Adams House.

UCP officials charged that FAC is not a centrist group and is funded by corporate foundations which give money to right-wing organizations.

According to FAC's introductory pamphlet, the group seeks to restore intellectual freedom and reasoned debate which has been lost to growing intolerance of "radical elements within academia." This intolerance has been "often expressed in policies and practices that infringe upon First Amendment rights."

Gentry said that the purpose of the conference was to "outline a national strategy in defense of principles of intellectual freedom."

That strategy is to increase the number of FAC chapters nation wide so as to "establish a national network of collegiate chapters," Gentry said.

In addition, conference members ratified the Cambridge Resolution, a document written by FAC's student representatives, which states the coalition's commitment to intellectual freedom and diversity.

According to its literature, FAC opposes "censorship of student publications, mandatory sensitivity-training programs and politically-correct student speech codes."

Student panelists gave examples of their own efforts at campus activism through petitions, journalism, speakers and even legal action.

Their efforts were applauded by FAC Chair and Co-Founder John Renick. FAC also provided "start-up packets" to those representatives interested in founding their own campus chapters.

"You will be going away from here with not only encouragement but practical guidance on what to do on your campuses," he said.

The UCP responded to the FAC conference by issuing a report criticizing widespread right-wing influence on university campuses.

The co-editor of the report, Rich Cowan, said the funding for many campus right-wing projects can be traced to several corporate foundations. These foundations also contributed funds to the FAC, the report charges.

"We have noticed that the groups represented today at Harvard are the same groups that have received millions of dollars per year from the big corporate foundations," Cowan said.

FAC members, however, emphasize the nonpartisan nature of their organization.

"We are rising above the conservative-liberal dichotomy in defense of freedoms that should be guaranteed to all," said Gentry.

Panel speaker and Swarthmore College FAC Chapter founder Vijay K. Toke agreed. "The First Amendment transcends party lines," he said.

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