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Pitt faculty tilts left, conservative group warns students

| Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010

A conservative social-networking group urged University of Pittsburgh students yesterday to be wary of their professors' left-leaning bias as they return to Oakland for the start of classes this month.

CampusReform.org reported 88 percent of Pitt faculty and staff who donated to national 2008 political campaigns and identified their employer gave to Democrats, with the remaining 12 percent going to Republicans.

"America's colleges and universities are dominated by liberals, and the University of Pittsburgh is no different," said Morton Blackwell, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Leadership Institute, which runs CampusReform.org. "Too often, the campus left uses its power to indoctrinate the next generation."

That's simply not true, said Pitt professor Barry Ames, chairman of the political science department.

"We don't enforce any kind of ideology, but if anybody talked in a way that would be clearly ideological, we would come down on them," Ames said. "We don't want to be biased. We want to preserve an open classroom."

Ames said he's not surprised the overwhelming majority of Pitt professors donated to Democrats in the last election, because of what he called a backlash against the policies of President George W. Bush.

"George Bush made a lot of Democrats," Ames said. "My suspicion is, in the next election, it will be more balanced. But then again if, in the next election, Sarah Palin runs, it won't be."

CampusReform's report on Pitt says 13 student groups are dedicated to liberal agendas and identifies eight as Republican or conservative. The university offers courses in "liberalism and democracy" and "Marxism," but none that teaches about conservatives.

This fall, the University of Virginia is debuting an accredited, 11-week course known as Conservatism 101. It was created because students lobbied for it, said Bryan Bernys, a spokesman for CampusReform.org.

Ames said he was not aware of efforts to start a similar class at Pitt.

CampusReform has released reports about political bias at 57 U.S. colleges and universities. It plans to profile the top 100 as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, which suggests it will release its findings on Carnegie Mellon University (ranked No. 22) later this year.

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