WHAT WAS OPERATION RED SCARE?
Timeline and Key Documents

 

February 24, 2005- A Flyer is anonymously posted at ten (10) Santa Rosa Junior College (S.R.J.C.) instructors’ offices, including mine.  Underneath a bright red star, the flyer quotes California Education Code 51530, which prohibits “the advocacy or teaching of communism with the intent of indoctrinating or inculcating a preference in the mind of any pupil for such doctrine.”  The code defines communism as “the political theory that the presently existing form of government of the United States or of this state should be changed, by force, violence, or other unconstitutional means, to a totalitarian dictatorship which is based on the principles of communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.”

February 28, 2005- The S.R.J.C. College Republicans – an official student club at S.R.J.C. – appear when KFTY TV 50 interviews some of the targeted faculty.  The club provides a Press Release announcing, “The Santa Rosa Junior College Republicans are responsible for the posting of the Education Code Section 51530 that was signed ‘Anonymous students’.  We did this because we believe certain instructors at SRJC are in violation of California state law.” The post also asserts that their flyer "was simply a notification to teachers we have received complaints about."

February 28, 2005 – The California College Republicans publish a press release on its web site.  It identifies the SRJC College Republicans’ actions as “Operation Red Scare.”

February 28, 2005 – A blog appears on the College Republicans Community’s Journal.  Its author claims to be the President of the S.R.J.C. College Republicans, Molly McPherson.  The post 1) includes a link to the “Operation Red Scare” press release of the California College Republicans, 2) states “I’m busy emailing some local radio stations,” 3) declares “All we need is for [the faculty] to oppress us more, like try to take away our charter, and we’ll smack Sean Hannity and the O’Reilly Factor on them,” and 4) reveals “this is just in time for one of our senators introducing the academic bill of rights in April. : )”

March 2, 2005- The SRJC student newspaper, The Oak Leaf, publishes a front page story titled “Code Red?”. The article frames its story with the subtitle "Republicans feel faculty blowback over flyer." The article shifts the story from the 'Red Star Flyer' to the faculty reaction to the flyer. Quoting the SRJC College Republican's February 28th press release, the article ignores the press release's claim that "We did this because we believe certain instructors at SRJC are in violation of California state law"; and it merely mentions then ignores the fact McPherson admitted she had "no specific complaints, no threats or specific accusations." The story portrays the SRJC College Republicans' behavior during the February 28th KFTY interview as a "search for dialogue"; and the story contrasts this with a portrait of a faculty member who, according to the story, "refused to let [the SRJC College Republicans] participate in the press conference."

March 2, 2005- An Oak Leaf cartoon continues to frame the paper's coverage of "Operation Red Scare" by emphasizing faculty reaction to the 'Red Star Flyer'; and it portrays this reaction as a hypocritical attempt to refuse to let the SRJC College Republicans to participate in the KFTY interview.

March 2, 2005- The Oak Leaf's issue quotes four faculty email messages. The messages had been sent to a SRJC email list exclusively for SRJC faculty, staff, and administrators.

March 2, 2005- The Oak Leaf's editorial, titled Getting from conflict to dialogue, begins by advocating that 'Operation Red Scare' be "seen as an opportunity to open a dialogue" and limits its account of the 'Red Star Flyer' to "the fact the students initially aired their greivance anonymously" [Commentary]

March 2, 2005- In his Oak Leaf column "Fair and Balanced," Editor-in-chief, Dana Wright, compares "Operation Red Scare" to the infamous 1964 Daisy Ad, highlighting that the ad "capitalized on people's fears by falsely claiming that if Goldwater was elected, there would be a nuclear war," noting "Republicans denounced the ad, saying it was underhanded and fallacious," and pointing out "the ad was taken off the air after only one showing." Despite this, Wright begins his column by giving, "My compliments to the designer of the 'scarlet letter' that appeared on the doors and windows of several SRJC instructors last friday" and claims this "scarlet letter" "[pales] in significance to the retort it has sparked from faculty..."

March 2, 2005- In an Oak Leaf letter to the editor, Molly McPherson no longer associates the "the instructors I targeted" with teaching "communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism." Rather, she claims "there's even been accounts of JC teachers openly advocating Communist and Marxist theories" and she insists that Communism "has been outlawed in the classrooms." Despite being quoted in the article "Code Red?" saying she had "no specific complaints, no threats or specific accusations," McPherson insists, "This had to be done publicly because engaging in public discourse is the only way to be taken seriously in this huge college bureaucracy."

March 2, 2005- In a Press Democrat article titled, “SRJC Uproar over Republican Protest,” McPherson rephrases the issue again: “It’s a big issue.  The opinion of the far left is presented as fact, with no alternative.” [Commentary]

March 3, 2005- A Press Democrat article titled “SRJC teachers, students face off” adopts McPherson's new phrasing of the issue when it frames the article with the subtitle “Session draws crowd eager to debate letters accusing instructors of left-leaning bias."

March 7, 2005- An Inside Higher Ed article titled 'A New Red Scare' elaborates on this new phrasing of the issue when it 1) begins by stating, "Members of the College Republicans group at Santa Rosa Junior College had had enough. They were fed up… with various professors who, by expressing unvarnished liberal views as fact, made the students feel uncomfortable expressing their opposing views in class," 2) quotes Molly McPherson saying, “What are you supposed to think when your teacher stands in front of the class and talks about what idiots all the people are who voted in the current administration,” 3) quotes McPherson saying, "The goal was to promote a discussion. We weren’t trying to say they were communists," and 4) concludes by noting that McPherson “said she plans to build student support for legislation introduced in the California legislature – modeled on David Horowitz’s Student Bill of Rights.” [Commentary]

March 16, 2005- During the S.R.J.C. Academic Senate’s “Open Forum" I read a prepared speech explaining why I think it is premature to stop talking about 'Operation Red Scare' and the 'Red Star Flyer'; for "the more I listen to and read from the SRJC College Republicans’ leadership, the more concerned I become that they are not interested in understanding the issues surrounding this incident. They seem more interested in creating publicity for a partisan political bill."

March 16, 2005- S.R.J.C. Academic Senate’s “Red Star Resolution” “condemns the behavior of the students involved for threatening targeted instructors” by, among other things, 1) labeling instructors communists, 2) ignoring established grievance procedures, and 3) choosing their targeted faculty based on hearsay complaints by unknown students.

April 7, 2005- The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges passes a resolution titled 'Integrity for the Learning Environment'. The resolution asserts that Senator Morrow's SB5 "denigrates the abilities of students of all political, ideological, and religious backgrounds to synthesize and critically evaluate the information received in the classroom and undermines the integrity of the learning environment by usurping and impugning the role and expertise of the instructor in the determination of course content" and "[reaffirms] its opposition to proposals that abrogate academic freedom as defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and that attempt to undermine the integrity of the learning environment, whether they be under the title of 'The Student Bill of Rights', 'The Academic Bill of Rights' or any other name."

April 11, 2005- Sonoma State University's Academic Senate passes a resolution. Condemning both "the stigmatizing of faculty members who express ideas, whether they are conventional or unconventional, popular or unpopular" and "attempts to restrict the free flow of ideas, as well as attempts to intimidate teachers," the SSU resolution "expresses its support for and solidarity with the 10 targeted SRJC faculty members and wholeheartedly endorses academic freedom."

April 12, 2005- In an Oak Leaf article titled "Republican Forum Points to Grievance Process," 1- SRJC Student Trustee, Nick Caston, points out, "I have been on the Board of Review (the last step [of] the grievance process) for three years and have never heard a complaint about bias in the class room," and 2- the article depicts the forum discussing past cases of alleged academic bias; but, according to the article, when a student refers to Operation Red Scare, saying "What the Republican club did was hostile and threatening and the faculty deserve an apology at the very least," the forum moderator "reminded the crowd that the forum was not about dwelling on the past, but about moving forward and addressing the issues that had been raised."

April 12, 2005- In an Oak Leaf editorial, California State Senator Rob Morrow (R-Oceanside) attempts to justify his bill, SB5 (a.k.a. "The Student Bill of Rights"), by 1- charging "In some cases, our public campuses are morphing into hotbeds of incivility, intolerance, lack of intellectual diversity, harrassment, intimidation, and breach of contract," 2- alluding to two alleged examples of academic bias, 3- claiming "some [faculty] humiliate students who offer dissenting opinions or employ a two-tier grading system that punishes the GPA of those expressing alternative perspectives," asserting 4- "a growing number -- both liberal and conservative -- run their classrooms as if managing little Abu Graibs," and 5- charging the American Association of University Presidents has "abandoned" a Statement of Principle which declares "The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression." [Commentary]

April 12, 2005- In his Oak Leaf column "Fair and Balanced," Editor-in-chief, Dana Wright, insists "I have been declared guilty of bias coverage of the news for no other reason than my association with the SRJC Republicans." Then, he explains "why the discrediting of the campus press was a crucial part of the faculty reaction. They know the Oak Leaf is simply holding a mirror up to the campus. And so long as there are people who don't like what they see in the mirror, the paper's credibility will be challenged." [Commentary]

April 12, 2005- S.R.J.C. instructor Terry Mulcaire reads a "Statement to the Board of Trustees at S.R.J.C.." Suggesting that Senator Morrow's SB5 "responds to a false problem" and "will have the effect of reducing all knowledge to opinion," the statement asks, "If everything is arguable, and no one can lay any particular claim to authoritative knowledge or expertise, then why have a system of higher education at all?" Claiming that "The anti-intellectualism that underpins SB5 is breathtaking, and antithetical to everything this college stands for," Mulcaire "[urges] the board to make public their opposition to SB5."

April 13, 2005- In an online column titled, 'Red Scare Retro', Michael Davidson, the head of the California College Republicans, is quoted explaining why the organization used the name 'Operation Red Scare' on their original press release: "A lot of the college professors are leftovers from the Seventies - and Communist sympathizers."

April 17, 2005- In a Press Democrat editorial titled "Sound Advice," Oak Leaf Editor-in-chief, Dana Wright, compares Operation Red Scare with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, quotes Noam Chomsky saying, "After any criminal act of this scale, you look at the circumstances and analyze the problems; often times they are legitimate and aught to be addressed independently of the crime," and then asserts "I think this is also sound advice for instructors, post-'red-star'." [Commentary]

April 20, 2005- Senator Morrow's SB5 fails to pass in the The Education Committee of the California State; but it is granted a reconsideration. The reconsideration has not been schedule yet.

 

May 4, 2005- S.R.J.C. Academic Senate’s Academic Freedom Resolution "requests that the Board of Trustees and administration at Santa Rosa Junior College join the Academic Senate in supporting the academic freedom of our faculty and students by opposing SB5 and any other similar legislation.

 

May 11, 2005- In an Oak Leaf Guest Column titled "Putting to rest red star not without year-end lessons," I propose "As we move on with our lives, I do think it's important to think about the significance of [Operation Red Scare]." Noting that the American Heritage dictionary defines 'McCarthyism' as "The practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard for evidence," I claim "The Red Star Incident is a clear case of McCarthyism." Claiming "Political subversion is a serious charge" and "publicizing such accusations with insufficient regard for evidence is reckless, dehumanizing, and despicable." I declare, "as I approach the end of the semester, and look forward to putting the Red Star Incident behind me," I want 1- "to forge ahead with a strengthened resolve to identify and resist McCarthyism when I encounter it," 2- "to acknowledge those who fail to resist it," 3- "to appreciate those who do resist it," and 4- "to move forward with a deepened appreciation of such concerns as part of my commitment to democracy."

October 17, 2008- During a Santa Rosa Junior College event, historian Dr. Ellen Schrecker and four Santa Rosa Junior College instructors discuss the history and methods of McCarthyism in an attempt to understand Operation Red Scare:

·                   Origins of the 50s Red Scare and Implications for Today

·                   McCarthyism, Higher Education, and the New Assault on Academic Freedom

·                   McCarthy-Era Methods, Operation Red Scare, and Senator Morrow's Defense of His Student Bill of Rights

·                   Academic Freedom

·                   Right-Wing Post-Modernism and the Student's Academic Bill of Rights

·                   Remarks on Red Star Incident and Comment on Prof. Ellen Schrecker’s presentation

 

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