John Leo

President V. Lane Rawlins burst onto the Sheldon scene when his university, Washington State, organized and financed the disruption of a controversial student play. FIRE showed that the university had paid for the tickets of students who shouted down the actors and stopped the performance. The play, "Passion of the Musical" by Chris Lee, was a satire starring Jesus and Lucifer among others. It managed to offend gays, Jews, blacks, Christians and other groups on campus. Rawlins defended the disrupters, saying they had "exercised their rights of free speech in a very responsible manner." Moist-eyed Sheldon judges said admiringly, "Anyone who defends the stopping of a play as a free speech right, and finances the operation, has our full attention."

Rawlins broadened his Sheldon appeal in the highly publicized case of student Ed Swan, who was threatened with expulsion from the Washington State teacher-education program after he expressed conservative religious and political views. Swan was told he could stay if he underwent mandatory diversity training and special faculty scrutiny. Instead, he called FIRE. Rawlins and the university backed down.

Another heavyweight Sheldon contender is the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of DePaul, a Catholic university in Chicago. Though in office only 22 months, Holtschneider has already presided over three Sheldon-attracting controversies:

  • A veteran, part-time teacher with a good record, Thomas Klocek, was suspended without a hearing after a verbal run-in with pro-Palestinian students at a school fair. He refused an order to apologize, and balked at the university's plan to put a monitor in his classes. Then he sued.

  • The college Republicans were found guilty of violating a campus prohibition against "propaganda" after handing out fliers criticizing an upcoming lecture by radical professor Ward Churchill.

  • Sponsors of a mock bake sale satirizing affirmative action were hauled on the carpet. The were found not guilty of harassment, but then censured because the university said their application for table space was faulty. Holtschneider denounced the sale as "an affront to DePaul's values of respect and dignity."

    Judges agreed they had never seen two candidates as eminently qualified as Rawlins and Holtschneider. Calling the pair "the Ruth and Gehrig of modern Sheldonism," the judges awarded the golden no-spine statuette to both. Congratulations, Sheldon laureates 2006.

  • John Leo

    John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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