THE RIGHTEOUS STUFF

IN THE MID-'80S, ASU WAS THE LAUNCHING PAD FOR THEIR CONSERVATIVE VITRIOL. NOW THEY'VE GRADUATED TO THE REAL WORLD.

In the early 1980s, Arizona State University was popularly viewed as the Disneyland of college campuses. While Central America bubbled with political turmoil and the Southwest was gripped by debate over human rights and the Sanctuary Movement, ASU distinguished itself by consistently rating near the top of the heap in "party school" polls. Shapely Sun Devil co-eds were prominently featured in the "Girls of the Pac-10" pictorials published by Playboy, which, to nobody's surprise, ranked ASU third in a national survey of "sexual temperature."

The daily campus newspaper, the State Press, was doing little to discourage ASU's image. It was controlled by a few students who had dubbed themselves The Force. For the most part, no one paid much attention--either to the students or the newspaper; the editors tended to spout the liberal musings that had been common to college campuses since the 60s.

At first, few took note of the quiet coup staged at the State Press by Jay Heiler, Matthew Scully and, later, Len Munsil, three postpubescent Reaganites who took it upon themselves to put ASU on the right course--the far right course. By 1985, ASU had established itself nationally as a hothouse for a virulent strain of conservatism that would have made Joe McCarthy smile.

With blitzkrieg swiftness, Heiler, Munsil and Scully succeeded in making ASU famous for something other than football, keggers and righteous tans.

As editor of the State Press, Munsil refused to print meeting notices for the ASU gay and lesbian union. As a student senator, former editor Heiler supported a move that cut funding to student groups whose agendas were seen as unsavory. And columnist Scully helped to launch a national hate movement against a professor whose views he found objectionable.

Munsil, Heiler and Scully used their exceptional rhetorical skills and the opinion page of the State Press to denounce the Russians, The Joy of Sex and anything else deemed repugnant. They were, at turns, reviled, applauded and picketed. Newsweek visited the campus and the New York Times was inspired to opine about the evils of limiting professorial freedom.

The movement "opened the floodgates for all kinds of hate to flow our way," recalls Mark Reader, the professor who suffered Scully's attacks both on the pages of the State Press and in a 35,000-piece mailing by Accuracy in Academia, a national classroom-watchdog organization that Scully would later direct. Reader still teaches Political Science 101 at ASU. He keeps a framed copy of that New York Times editorial from October 27, 1985, in his office, a reminder of a troubling time that has faded from many memories. (Former ASU president J. Russell Nelson, for example, barely recalls the events.) It sits among the Abbie Hoffman biography and science texts on nuclear power.

Reader hasn't had a death threat in a long time. Despite the onslaught, he was steadfast in not varying his curriculum. But at the beginning of each semester, each of Reader's students receives a flier titled "Classroom Etiquette and Intellectual Freedom." Reader is cautious. No cameras or tape recorders are allowed in the classroom, and nonstudents must receive permission to observe a lecture. Despite the unwillingness of some to recognize the residual effects, it has taken years to rid the campus of the "smelly little orthodoxy" trumpeted by Scully and company, Reader says.

But, the political theorist adds, "I think we're recovering." As it turned out, ASU was not the only campus to find itself awash in a tide of preppy ultraconservatism. But the triad who cast themselves as ASU's moral compass were not your garden variety Birch saplings. Heiler, Scully and Munsil were smart, cunning young men.

They still are, and in the past decade, they've taken their skills and politics to state and national levels. Scully helped pen then-vice president Dan Quayle's diatribe against the "cultural elite." Munsil devotes his efforts to bringing the porn industry to its knees. And Heiler sits at the right hand of the governor of Arizona.

@rule:
@body:Ever since America put Ronald Reagan out to his Southern California pasture, things over on the right wing have been rough. The Soviets' "Evil Empire" dissolved, the Cold War fizzled and the gay community emerged as an organized, powerful political lobby. George Bush's shrill "family values" campaign was rebuffed by the voters. Bill and Hillary moved into the White House. The "in" look--both on and off campus--is back to short cut-offs and long tresses.

Shed no tears for Jay Heiler, Matthew Scully and Len Munsil. They've kept busy.
As a commentator for the conservative weekly National Review and director of a national antiporn group, respectively, Scully and Munsil have found comfortable stations from which to preach their politics. Both men hold positions of national prominence within the conservative community.

But it is Jay Heiler who stands to implement real change, right here in Arizona. Heiler has risen from the State Press basement office in ASU's Matthews Center to the ninth floor of the state Capitol Executive Tower. His mission: converting the masses and getting his boss, Governor Fife Symington, reelected next year.

In May 1992, Symington hired Heiler as a special assistant for policy development. Insiders call the staffer's recent reassignment as director of communications proof that Heiler has succeeded in spinning Symington to the right and evidence that the 1994 gubernatorial race is officially under way. They cite Heiler's influence in policy areas such as education (Symington's continued affection for private vouchers), the environment (the signing of controversial private-property legislation that limits the state's rights) and--most notably--crime (at Heiler's urging, Symington infuriated Attorney General Grant Woods and legislators by vetoing an anticrime package that the governor labeled too soft).

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1 comments
ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

You know that Keating had the largest collection of porn in the world - he used to show it off at his private parties.  I'm guessing he passed that on to Scully.

 
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