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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

Ex-professor airs gripes about BG on national show

BOWLING GREEN - Richard Zeller said his ongoing campaign to challenge political correctness at Bowling Green State University has “hit a national nerve,” and he landed a spot on Dr. Laura to prove it.

Dr. Zeller, a sociology professor who tried unsuccessfully to teach a course on political correctness at BGSU, said he retired after 24 years with the university in May “in protest over their restrictive curricular policies which prevent criticism of feminism, affirmative action, and multiculturalism.”

He claims the university as a whole stifles students from freely expressing their views in class, in compositions - in general.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a get-to-the-point radio-TV talk show host who dispenses advice with a sharply conservative edge, invited Dr. Zeller on her television show after reading a newspaper article about him. About the same time, Dr. Zeller had been a guest on nationally known conservative Larry Elder's radio show and wound up the subject of his Sept. 28 column, “The Politically Incorrect Professor.”

Dr. Zeller said the column “produced a huge amount of response. It's kind of overwhelming in a sense. I don't know how to describe it other than to say we hit a national nerve.”

While his Dr. Laura appearance was videotaped last week, an air date for the segment has not been scheduled, according to Daniella Cracknell, spokeswoman for the show. She said Dr. Zeller was a natural choice for the controversial therapist's show, which debuted in September.

“The obvious reason is he is a person with a moral dilemma,” Ms. Cracknell said. “Our show is about moral dilemmas. People come on to ask her her recommendation on moral dilemmas.”

On the segment, Don Nieman, dean of BGSU's college of arts and sciences, represented the university, making his comments by phone. Dr. Nieman said Dr. Laura was “very polite, but she got in the last word, of course. There wasn't much influence by the discussion that had gone on earlier. I think she pretty much had her mind made up where truth and virtue lay in this.”

Dr. Nieman dismissed Dr. Zeller's claims that the university systematically stifles free thought. In his own classes, he said, his goal is to examine both sides of issues and encourage students to form their own opinions.

“The thing that really amuses me is the notion that there's some kind of thought police on the BG campus because surveys that Rich himself has done show that most of our students believe that they have the freedom to express their views and they won't suffer retribution,” Dr. Nieman said.

Dr. Zeller disagrees.

“My students consistently told me, `You have to be pro-feminist to graduate.' I tried everything I could for a decade to address that,” he said, adding that he's enjoying the freedom retirement has brought him. He and his wife now live in New Philadelphia, O., where he is doing consulting work; he teaches part-time at Kent State University.

“I'm scot-free because I can say what I want. The freshmen at BGSU can't,” Dr. Zeller said.



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