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Liar, Liar

A group of Muslim students is prevaricating in an attempt to get Orange Coast College professor Ken Hearlson fired. Now that they've been caught, will the school let them get away with it?

11:01 PM, Nov 28, 2001 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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ORANGE COAST COLLEGE, maybe the prettiest community college in California, if not the world, recently gave in to ideological mau-mauing by a group of Muslim students. And now they've been caught red-handed.

On September 18, political science professor Kenneth W. Hearlson was teaching his Introduction to Government class in front of his usual group of 200 students. The evening's topic was terrorism and how Middle Eastern states condone it. Discussion was heated, and the next day four Muslim students complained to OCC vice president Robert Dees that Hearlson had called them "terrorists," "Nazis," and "murderers." One of the students, Mooath Saidi, claimed that Hearlson pointed at him and said, "You drove two planes into the World Trade Center. You were the cause of what happened September 11."

The wheels of sensitivity grind rough, but swiftly. By September 20, Hearlson had been placed on administrative leave (with pay). A few days later, he was barred from returning to campus. Only after punishing Hearlson did the administration decide to investigate the charges against him. The October 3 edition of the Coast Report, the OCC paper, noted that Geraldine Jaffe, a lawyer from the Orange County Department of Education, had been hired as an outside investigator. Jaffe is compiling a report that will be presented to the Coast Community College board of trustees on Friday. They will then make a final decision on Hearlson's fate, possibly by next Tuesday.

The case against Hearlson mirrors perfectly any number of political-correctness rackets which have cropped up on college campuses over the past several years. Except this time there is proof that Hearlson is innocent and his accusers are lying.

Two students taped the September 18 class, and the transcript of the tape proves unequivocally not only that Hearlson never accused any of the students of being terrorists, but that he went out of his way not to.

At one point a Muslim student tells Hearlson that she doesn't condone violence and Hearlson replies, "You don't believe in that and I agree with you. And I agree with what President Bush said, 'It is not a condemnation of the Muslim. It is a condemnation of those who carried out the attack.'"

Another student challenges Hearlson by saying of Muslims that "they are not all killers." Hearlson replies, "That's exactly right. . . . What I am saying is that I want to see the Arab world stand up and say, 'This is wrong. What was done to America. This is wrong.' . . . And what I have told you tonight--and I may be wrong, I have been wrong a lot of times--I have not seen that happen."

In a final exchange, Hearlson is holding forth on the Six Day War when a student stops and asks about his use of the word "you":

STUDENT: You said that "you attacked," blah, blah, blah. That person did not attack.
HEARLSON: No, that person did not.
STUDENT: I know, I just wanted to correct you.
HEARLSON: Absolutely, I am talking about Arab nations.
STUDENT: Not referring to one single person. I am making sure.
HEARLSON: Alright, very good. Thank you for that. I appreciate that.

In her November 25 New York Times story about the incident, Diana Jean Schemo asked Saidi, one of Hearlson's Muslim accusers, about the tape. He replied, "If some of the allegations I made were not maybe right, if my memory was shady, this is not the first time anybody has brought anything against this teacher. . . . [Hearlson] has a history, and he obviously hasn't learned and needs to be taught a lesson." C.C. Abdelmuti, another of the Muslim students, says that, despite the lack of evidence, she stands by her statements.

So what is Orange Coast College going to do with the proverbial "stained blue dress"? Thus far they've tried to ignore it. On September 27, Erik Thompson, one of Hearlson's students, wrote to the OCC administration to set the record straight. "I know that there are some students that have tapes of the lectures which I am sure will help with this investigation," Thompson said. He never heard back from administration officials. Only when students brought their tapes to Hearlson--and Hearlson passed them on to his lawyer--did some members of the administration take note of them. In yesterday's Orange County Register, school president Margaret Gratton said she still had neither heard the tapes nor read the transcript.

Anyone who thinks they can predict the wacky actions of community college administrators is a sucker. But there's a pretty safe bet on what they won't do: Apologize to Hearlson, reinstate him, and expel the students who lied and tried to bully him off campus--even though they have good cause to. A quick inspection of the school's Academic Honesty code shows that OCC students "are expected to refrain from all acts of academic dishonesty." Professors have been banished from campus for less.