Heads were spinning in anger Tuesday night in the Kansas Union, where about 30 Kansas University students watched a state senator take her criticisms of a professor and his human sexuality class to a national television audience.
"It was all about slandering Dennis Dailey," Rick Sullivan, a KU senior from Leavenworth, said of Sen. Susan Wagle's appearance on the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor."
Moans, groans and sarcastic laughter greeted host Bill O'Reilly when he interviewed Wagle and KU student Jessica Zahn about Dailey, the class instructor.
Zahn, a Linwood senior who has worked as an intern for Wagle, also was a student in Dailey's class. Zahn leveled allegations against Dailey for inappropriate sexual remarks, showing pornographic videotapes and flipping the middle finger at some students, including one female student who walked out on him the first day of class.
O'Reilly called Zahn "courageous" for coming forward, then quizzed Wagle about her budget amendment to get state funding rescinded for university departments that allow instructors to buy or show obscene videos in classes.
Wagle, R-Wichita, said that while Dailey had the right of free speech, "the taxpayers don't have to foot the bill."
Wagle's budget amendment was nixed in a line-item veto by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Wagle said the Legislature would attempt to override her veto.
"I don't see the academics in it," Wagle said of Dailey's class.
O'Reilly drew hoots and laughter from the students when he referred to the governor of Kansas as a "he" and said "he was invited" to come on the show to talk about the veto.
Allegations that Dailey attends fraternity "porn nights" also drew gasps from the students. "What porn night?" one student exclaimed.
"It's too late now, but I would challenge her to enroll in the class and see for herself," said Carolyn Bridges, a Lenexa junior and class member about Wagle.
"He doesn't belittle students," Sullivan said. "I think the governor looked very objectively at this and made a very sound decision."
Dailey declined to comment Tuesday night.
Dailey's student supporters plan to travel today to the Capitol to hand out fliers, said Jen Hein, a Lawrence senior.
"This has really been a pretty emotional thing," she said.
Hein said she and other students in the class were called by O'Reilly representatives to get their perspectives on the Dailey controversy. But she noted that nothing was said in Dailey's defense.
Watching the show among the students was Herman Leon, a retired professor emeritus in the School of Social Welfare. He encouraged the students supporting Dailey to take a strong stand. He said they held the key to Dailey's and the class's future.
"This is a total degradation of the university experience," Leon said. "Senator Wagle is a cancer on higher education in the state of Kansas."
A few days ago Wagle sent KU officials an open records request for information about Dailey's background and qualifications. A copy of the request obtained by the Journal-World shows she also asks for information about the class curriculum and for KU to provide copies or access to all slides, videos and films shown in the class and their costs.
KU officials say they have responded, but details about that response were not immediately available late Tuesday.Larry Draper, KU professor of molecular biosciences and outgoing chairman of the faculty Senate Executive Committee, said he was concerned if the records were requested without cause.
"The knowledge of these things is one thing, the use of that information is another," Draper said. "I think it's disturbing when you go after somebody like that."