Sunday, September 14, 2003

A left thumb in the eye for Miami U.

Peter Bronson

"Workers of the world unite - you have nothing to lose but your $15,000 speaking fee."

That's not exactly what Karl Marx had in mind for his proletariat paradise. But that's the message from Barbara Ehrenreich, an author who writes left-handed and talks out of both sides of her mouth.

She's the writer who kicked the Cincinnati Woman's Club in the shins this year and caved in to a bogus boycott. But never mind. Miami University still invited her to greet the freshman class on Aug. 25, for a fee of $15,000. Her thank-you was a thumb in Miami's eye.

After a speech that one campus official said "turned many people off," she urged 4,000 students to ditch the program and join her pro-union march against Miami.

Ehrenreich is a left-left-lefty who has been described as a Marxist, socialist atheist. In her columns in The Progressive, she occupies that bizarre mental nation that borders on Michael Mooreland and Martin Sheenistan.

She sneers at "well-fed suits," but her speaking contract included a non-disclosure clause to hide her fat fee from the worker bees who paid it.

In her latest book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, she calls Jesus "a wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist."

So, of course, that was the book and she was the speaker chosen to greet all the freshmen at Miami. A committee dominated by faculty and administrators agreed to pay her $15,000, plus another $600 in expenses. Half came from student fees. And many students were not pleased.

Bill Gracie, dean of interdisciplinary studies and chairman of the selection committee, said "many students were not persuaded by her approach." So, he said, the faculty was obligated to defend Ehrenreich's far-left ideology.

Are we getting the message yet? Before they arrived on campus, the freshmen were required to read Ehrenreich's book that pushes a socialist "living wage." Then at their first big college event, she delivered the purple Kool-Aid sermon, and faculty members said amen.

No conservative viewpoint was presented. Recent book/speaker choices have included an anti-death-penalty book, Dead Man Walking, also from the left. But no conservative authors have made the list.

Gracie cited one book that was more moderate by comparison (Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez). But he said faculty members complained that it was too conservative.

This year, the campus Republicans protested Ehrenreich's speech with fliers that said "Capitalism Works." They pointed out that the "living wage" advocated by Miami unions and Ehrenreich would force steep tuition hikes or layoffs.

"You will find many professors agree with Ehrenreich," the flier accurately predicted. "What the program really amounts to is indoctrination."

Miami President James Garland memoed a warning that the book would be controversial. But it's important to foster free expression and debate, he said.

I'm in favor of that. But how about some balance?

And isn't this is the same faculty and administration that did nothing to defend a student columnist who was fired by the student paper for his conservative opinions?

Gracie said the point is to get students to think.

They're thinking, all right. They're thinking there is no balance at Miami - lean left, or you're left out.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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