- Professor of Music Performance at Ball State University who teaches an introductory course in Peace Studies
- Recruits students to join an anti-war student group that he advises
George Wolfe is an accomplished saxophonist and a professor of Music Performance at Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, Indiana. He is also the Director of the university’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS), a position to which he was appointed in 2002.
Besides pledging his support for the Center’s classes in “contemplative practice and meditation,” Wolfe has declared his interest in increasing “religious diversity,” to which end he recommended holding a celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday in October. Himself a follower of Gandhi’s teachings—Wolfe is convinced that “conflicts between people are really a projection of inner conflict”—Wolfe regularly gives talks on Gandhi at universities across the United States; the topic of a 2005 speech he delivered at Anderson University, in Indiana, was “Gandhian Philosophy: Slaying the Enemy Within.”
The CPCS website, another contribution made by Wolfe, declares: “It is the mission of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies to promote nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution.” Elsewhere, the website discloses: “The [C]enter will continue to study, teach, and be an advocate for nonviolent philosophies and strategies that have been proven successful in various parts of the world.” Citing some groups it hopes to emulate, the website lists, among others, “nuclear disarmament” groups, “organized labor,” and “the United Farm Workers movement.”
Likewise, the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution minor offered at Ball State sees its role primarily as one of advocacy. More than merely studying “the causes of war and the conditions of peace,” this program explores the “challenges of promoting peace and justice,” and urges students to practice “mediation and other more equitable, cooperative, and nonviolent methods that can be used to transform unjust, violent, or oppressive situations.” Toward this end, Wolfe’s course, “Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution,” offers an overview of various “peace movements.”
Beyond instructing students in the presumed virtues of these movements, Wolfe has been accused of pushing students to become activists. Brett Mock, a Ball State student who took Wolfe’s introductory class in the spring of 2004, published an in-depth critique contending that the course was organized around “indoctrination rather than education.” Mock noted that Wolfe evinced “no tolerance whatsoever for any disagreement and that he would never support the use of force as an instrument of peace,” an ideological disposition mirrored in the required readings for the course.
Mock also charged that Wolfe had a habit of lowering the grades of students who did not share his position that peaceful resistance was always preferable to any other means of conflict resolution. By contrast, students who, heeding Wolfe’s public claims that the U.S.-led war against Iraq was a “fiasco,” traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in anti-war demonstrations, were rewarded with extra credit. The professor also required students to attend a screening of the anti-war film Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the War in Iraq, Mock noted.
Mock further revealed that Wolfe had urged students to join Peace Workers, a BSU student activist organization formed in January of 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. Wolfe acts as a faculty advisor to the organization, which regularly stages anti-war protests on campus and receives its funds from the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. Under Wolfe’s direction, the Center has devised awards for students who join Peace Workers. In April 2003, for instance, the Center presented a special “Social Activist Award” to Peace Workers for organizing a march and a sit-in expressing opposition to the Iraq War.
According to Mock, Wolfe gave his students the option of joining Peace Workers for a semester or else attending the monthly meetings of the Interfaith Fellowship, an outreach program headed by Wolfe. The only other option available to students enrolled in Wolfe’s course was to sign up for meditation classes and services, to be paid for by the students themselves, in order to experience “the ground of being that lies at the depths of our consciousness.”
Wolfe is a fierce critic of Israel who occasionally invites anti-Israel speakers to address his students. In 2005, for instance, he hosted a lecture about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Philip C. Wilcox Jr., a former American diplomat who assigns the blame for Palestinian terrorism to Israel; Wolfe enthused that Wilcox was “very informed about the situation.” Wolfe also avails himself of the CPCS’s fundraising capacity to sponsor student projects with a pronounced bias against Israel. In 2005, he raised funds through the Center to sponsor what he called a “student research project in the Israeli occupied territory.”