An Invitation to Colleges and Universities

by Project Censored

An Invitation to Colleges and Universities to Conduct Investigative Research for Independent Media and Human Betterment

By Peter Phillips

Investigative research is the use of social science research methods to conduct data collection and analysis of important socio-economic issues for broad public dissemination—much like in-depth investigative reporting. Investigative research, in a college/university setting, focuses on releasing valuable information through independent media for public consumption in addition to, or instead of, academic journals or presentations at scholarly conferences.  Investigative research is a democracy building process that addresses the socio-structural circumstances of who decides, who wins and who loses in society. Public investigative research in the social sciences asks the questions: Who are the people with the most power? Who makes the important decisions that affect our lives? How did these socio-political elites acquire their positions? What advantages do these individuals share and what impacts do these advantages have over others in society?

In a capitalist society, the economic winner is invariably advantaged, honored, and encouraged. From little league to academics, American society encourages competition. The winners are rewarded with honor, fame, and advantages in future competitions.  Success is seldom solely based on individual effort. Many structural advantages involving race, class, and gender are in place in society that creates unequal results among various groups of people.

For example, racial inequality remains problematic in the US. People of color continue to experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, unemployment, police profiling, repressive incarceration and school segregation.

According to a new UCLA civil rights report, “Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge,” by Gary Orfield, schools in the US are currently 44 percent non-white, and minorities are rapidly emerging as the majority of public school students.  Latinos and Blacks are the two largest minority groups.1 However, Black and Latino students attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights era. Over fifty years after the US Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, schools remain separate and not equal. Orfield’s study shows that public schools in the Western states, including California, suffer from the most severe segregation in the US, rather than schools in the southern states, as many people believe.

This new form of segregation is primarily based on how urban areas are geographically organized—as Cornel West so passionately describes—into vanilla suburbs and chocolate cities.

Schools remain highly unequal in terms of money, qualified teachers, and up to date curricula.  Unequal education leads to diminished access to colleges and future jobs. Non-white schools are segregated by levels of income as well as by race. These “chocolate” low-income public schools are where most of the nation’s dropouts occur, leading to large numbers of virtually unemployable young people of color struggling to survive in a troubled economy.

Diminished opportunity for students of color invariably creates greater privileges for whites. White privilege is a challenging concept for many whites.  Whites like to think of themselves as hardworking individuals whose achievements are deserved due to personal efforts. In many cases this is partly true; hard work in college often pays off in many ways. Nonetheless, many whites find it difficult to accept that geographically-and structurally- based racism remains a significant barrier for many students of color. Whites often think that racism is in the past, and we that need not address it today. Yet inequality stares at us daily from the barrios, ghettos, and from behind prison walls.  Inequality continues in privileged universities as well.

A multi-ethnic and culturally diverse experience on university campuses is strongly valued in the US and is considered an important aspect of a college education.2 Higher education racial balance along with class equity is an ongoing subject of social justice research in many academic disciplines. Since the civil rights movement and 1960s campus unrest, much progress has been made on increasing minority and low-income access to colleges in the US. Public universities, and to a degree private universities, across the country annually assess their progress toward building socio-economic and racial equity. It is rare to see a public university that has effectively reversed this trend and deliberately tried to increase student wealth and maintain a non-diverse student population.

Project Censored students and faculty conducted an investigative research study on inequality in the California State University system in late 2008.3 The study described how Sonoma State University (SSU) had recently achieved the status of having the whitest, and likely richest, student population of any public university in the state of California. The investigative research showed that beginning in the early 1990s, the SSU administration specifically sought to market the campus as a public Ivy institution, offering an Ivy League experience at a state college price. Part of this public Ivy packaging was to advertise SSU as being in a destination wine country location with attractive physical and cultural amenities. These marketing efforts were principally designed to attract upper-income students to a Falcon Crest-like campus.

To achieve the desired outcome of becoming a wine-country public Ivy, SSU’s administration implemented special admissions screening processes that used higher SAT-GPA indexes than the rest of the California State University (CSU) system. According to Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres in The Miner’s Canary, high SAT scores correlate directly to both race and income with little relationship to actual success in college.4

SSU also conducted recruitment at predominately white upper-income public and private high schools throughout the west coast and Hawaii. Consequently, SSU freshmen students with family incomes over $150,000 increased by 59 percent between 1994 and 2007, and freshmen students from families with incomes below $50,000 declined by 21 percent. The campus remained over three-quarters white during this fifteen-year period, while the rest of the CSU campuses significantly increased ethnic diversity.

The study was published on the SSU Faculty Senate website, the statewide faculty union affirmative action website, and at Project Censored’s Investigative research site. The SSU student newspaper, Star, covered the story on the front page, and the local regional newspaper, Press Democrat, featured the story on their front page as well. The online news site covered the story nationally, and the authors were interviewed on two local talk radio stations as well as the much larger regional Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley.5

While the SSU university administration denied that they had deliberately tried to recruit richer students, they were unable to deny the facts in the report and are now taking significant steps to correct the situation. An SSU President’s emergency task force on diversity was created in the spring of 2009. While we cannot claim full credit for this apparent reversal in policy at SSU, we certainly raised the level of discussion and awareness of the issue by releasing our investigative research study.

The data gathered from the study also supported the writing of a 700-word research informed opinion article entitled, “A Black President Doesn’t Mean Racism is gone in America.”6 The article was published on over fifty websites, including Truthout, Global Research, and the national black online newspaper SF Bay View. Several international websites translated and posted the article as well.

The opinion piece stressed that our society has reached a point where a majority of the population has elected a black President of the United States. This presidency is a hugely symbolic achievement for race relations in the US.  However, we must not ignore the continuing disadvantages for people of color and the resulting advantages gained by whites.  Institutional policies and de facto segregation contribute to continuing inequalities that require ongoing review, discussion and redress. Efforts against racism must continue if we are to truly attain the civil rights goal of equal opportunity for all. These efforts cannot be realized unless investigative research, such as the studies listed above, are available not only for academics inside specific disciplines, but also for a far boarder democratic public policy process that is inclusive of citizen level activism for human betterment.

The Role of Public Universities In Building Media Democracy and Transparency of the Powerful

Public colleges and universities have a role to play in building media democracy and the full transparency of what the powerful are doing society. Universities are institutions founded on scientific factual research and on sharing the results of this research with others, both within specific disciplines and outside the academy. As the corporate media continues on the path of entertainment, declining support for investigative reporting and instead engaging in watered down news reporting, an opportunity for colleges and universities is emerging to take a role in validating independent news and doing investigative research for publication in independent media news sources worldwide (See chapter 5 for more on this topic).

Often college professors do not think about the research they are doing in terms of its public benefit. Most professors are trained to write for academic journals in a style that is factual, but often too complex for mass public reading.

The role of universities in supporting public education is receiving new attention, as evidenced by disciplines being more receptive to action research, liberation sociology, applied anthropology, comparative historical analysis, qualitative methods, community service involvement, and experiential learning. Certainly some aspects of these research styles have at their base an understanding and assumption that the research being done is for human betterment and democracy building, rather than just theory/discipline expansion.

Investigative research asks the questions, why do inequalities persist in society, and who are the beneficiaries of these inequalities? More specifically, investigative research identifies key deciders. Rarely do the powerful claim that they are the primary decision-makers, as in George W. Bush’s famous quote,  “I am the decider.”7 However when we examine and identify the individuals behind significant decisions inside powerful institutions in society, a different level of public awareness can emerge that pulls the covers off those people behind the bureaucratic curtains and exposes their self interest and unequal rewards.

Investigative Research Online: Health Care

Practices in Health Care and Disability Insurance: Delay, Diminish, Deny, and Blame

By Peter Phillips and Bridget Thornton: Sociology 436 class, spring 2007, with David Abbott, Brandon Beccio, Daniela Bravo, Laura Buck, Chris Castro, Andrew Kent, Chris Morello, Brian Murphy, Debra Sedeno, Kimberly Soho, and Yuri Wittman.


This study examined the historical circumstances that brought about our private health and disability insurance system in the US. We looked at the organizational structures of private for-profit and non-profit insurance companies that dominate the health care industry and the strategies these firms use to delay, diminish, and deny payment for health care and disability benefits for people across the country. We discussed the impact of delays and denials on patients and disabled individuals, and the ways insurance companies deliberately create psychological doubt and self-blame among those who are legitimately entitled to benefits. We summarized the results of twenty extensive interviews with people who have experienced major difficulties in receiving payments of benefits and for heath care service they expected from their insurance providers. We further examined the general lack of regulation, enforcement of existing laws and government motivation to meet the health and disability needs of all Americans, and the socio-economic power of the health insurance industry to dominate health care policy.

In order to understand how insurance companies strategize to maximize profits and limit payouts for benefits, we examined the evolution of the industry and the socio-economic power base of the top health insurance companies in the US. The power of the companies to set national policies contrasts with the personal difficulties of the individuals interviewed, demonstrating a system-wide process of profit taking at the expense of fulfilling promises, and of diverting money intended to pay for necessary health care goods and services.

Investigative Research Methods Used:

– Literature review on history of private health insurance in the US

– Literature review of problems with health insurance companies for patients

– Data collection of the names of the people on the Boards of Directors from the top nine health and disability insurance companies in the US-

Presidential campaign donations by the top companies and their directors

– Qualitative interviews with twenty families who had experienced problems with health insurance coverage

– Profits for top nine companies for 2006: $38 billion

Health Care Study Conclusions:

Each person interviewed for this study had insurance at the onset of his or her malady. They paid monthly premiums through employer sponsored plans or had purchased individual/family policies directly from insurance companies. The people in this study believed they would receive the benefits they were promised in the event of an accident, disease, or illness. The management practices of the health or disability insurance company delayed, diminished, and denied payment for expected benefits.

Health and Disability Insurance companies are for-profit entities, despite some organizations operating under tax-exempt status. Customer care and quality of service falls to second place under this profit-driven model of health care. These practices are part of a growing structural arrangement between private business and government that is unlikely to be undone without extensive government re-regulation. As a health care regulator, the state is working for the benefit of capital expansion instead of health care for every person. In fact, the state is motivated to extensively regulate individual behavior and ignore corporate malfeasance.

Private insurance has a structural motivation to delay, diminish, and deny payment for promised benefits, in order to maintain profit margins. They use these profits to propagandize the American public and influence voters through scare tactics of ―socialized medicine and long delays of service that supposedly occur in single-payer systems. Using corporate media and massive political donations to both parties, private health insurance companies have increased profits and maintained their influence in the system. The state complies with this arrangement and individuals within both systems use this compliance for revolving door career advancement.

The people in this study never anticipated the ways in which their lives would be changed by an inadequate and profit-driven system. They had health and disability insurance to protect them from insolvency and provide them with a minimum level of care and comfort. However, the companies with which the participants dealt managed to compound pain, trauma, and suffering instead of relieving it.

Adequate health care for everyone is a human right, acknowledged by the world in the 1948 United Nation‘s Declaration of Human Rights. Most Americans pay higher combined taxes, health and disability insurance premiums, co-payments, and various health-related expenses than citizens in common pool, single-payer systems, yet those countries allow all their citizens equal access to services. When the American people collectively decide that health care and basic social security is a right that belongs to everyone, the health and disability system can be changed to provide necessary benefits for all.

In addition to publishing the full study online, the following 730-word op-ed was published in October 2007 on some thirty websites, including, and dozens of newspapers nationwide.

Why the US Lacks Full Health Care

By Peter Phillips and Bridget Thornton

Health and disability insurance companies are systematically cheating the American public. Michael Moore’s top-grossing movieSicko is one example of the growing concern surrounding health care in the US.

The number of Americans without health insurance reached forty-seven million at last count, or sixteen percent of the population. The cost of health insurance is rising two to three times faster than inflation and is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the country. We pay more and get less medical care than the rest of the industrialized world. The total per capita health care cost in the US exceeds the health care expense per person in all other full care countries.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as eighteen thousand Americans die prematurely each year because they do not have health insurance. This figure does not include those who die prematurely each year because their insurers delay, diminish, or deny payment for promised benefits. Reports about people who die unnecessarily from services denied or delayed by insurance companies seldom receive broad coverage in the corporate media. Lack of media coverage has led to a nation of people uninformed about how national health and disability policies are controlled by the private insurance industry and how government regulators are powerless to do anything about it.

If industrialized countries around the world offer health care as a basic right, why is full health care not a right in the US? Private insurance companies are motivated to make as much money as possible and do so by systematically delaying, diminishing, and denying payment for promised services, and blaming individuals for their own misfortune.

On the boards of directors of the nine largest insurance companies are one hundred thirteen people. These directors are some of the richest people in the world. They hold one hundred fifty past and/or present positions with major financial or investment institutions in the US, including such major firms such as J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Lord Abbett, Bank of America, and Merrill-Lynch. Additionally, these board members have connections to some of the largest corporations in the world including General Motors, IBM, Ford, Microsoft, and Coca Cola. The combined affiliations among the one hundred thirteen health insurance directors represented revenue of over 2.5 trillion dollars 2006.
As some of the richest, most powerful people in America, health care executives dominate health policy with their campaign donations and active lobbying efforts. They spend millions to keep themselves in the health insurance delivery business despite overwhelming evidence that we would all be better off without them. They use these profits to propagandize the American public and influence voters through scare tactics of “socialized medicine” and long delays of service that supposedly occur in single-payer systems.

The single-payer advocacy group, Physicians for a National Health Program, reports that private insurance corporations spend an enormous amount of money on business-oriented expenses rather than health-related investments.  A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that spending for administrative costs associated with health care amount to over $320 billion per year or about thirty-one percent of health care costs in the US overall. The administrative costs in the Canadian national healthcare system amount to 16.7 percent or about half of the administrative overhead in the US.

Countries with common pool or single-payer health care systems provide similar levels of service to every person. In such countries, it is the responsibility of society as a whole to provide health care for each individual.

People in the US have a choice. We can continue with a high-cost profit-driven private insurance health care, system leaving millions to languish without care, and millions more to face the frustrations of systematic delays, diminished care, and denials of promised benefits. Alternatively, we can build a common pool health care system that provides necessary health care goods to everyone – for less than what we are now paying.

Let’s find and support the politicians who will provide health care for all outside of corporate fat-cat control.

Investigative Research Online: Global Dominance Group

The Global Dominance Group: 9/11 Pre-Warnings & Election Irregularities in Context

By Peter Phillips, Bridget Thornton, Celeste Vogler and Lew Brown


The leadership class in the US is now (as of 2006) dominated by a neo-conservative group of people with the shared goal of asserting US military power worldwide. This global dominance group, in cooperation with major military contractors, has become a powerful force in world military unilateralism and US political processes. This research study is an attempt to identify the general parameters of those who are the key actors supporting a global dominance agenda and how collectively this group has benefited from the events of September 11, 2001 and irregularities in the 2004 presidential election. This study examines how interlocking public private partnerships, including the corporate media, public relations firms, military contractors, policy elites, and government officials, jointly support a US military global domination agenda. We asked the traditional sociological questions regarding who wins, who decides, and who facilitates action inside the most powerful military-industrial complex in the world.

Investigative Research Methods Used:

– Literature review on power elite and Military Industrial Complex in the US

– Literature review on history Neo-conservatives in the US-

Data collection of the names of the people on the board of directors from the top ten defense contractors in the US and post-9/11 profits

– Data collection of the names of the directors of the leading policy institutes promoting a military dominance agenda

– Interlocks with military defense contractors and corporate media in the US

– Database of the 236 individuals who advocated for and benefited from the continuing expansion of US military dominance of the world

In addition to publishing this investigative research study on line, the database portions of the study with a somewhat different analysis were included as chapters in the books 9/11 and American Empire (2007) and Impeach the President: the Case against Bush and Cheney (2006).8

In addition to publishing the full study online, the following 710-word op-ed was published in February of 2006 on some thirty websites, including Commondreams,, granma.cubaweb, democraticunderground,  and dozens of newspapers nationwide.

Is US Military Dominance of the World a Good Idea?

By Peter Phillips

The leadership class in the US is now dominated by a neo-conservative group of some 200 people who have the shared goal of asserting US military power worldwide. This Global Dominance Group, in cooperation with major military contractors, has become a powerful force in military unilateralism and US political processes.

A long thread of sociological research documents the existence of a dominant ruling class in the US, which sets policy and determines national political priorities. C. Wright Mills, in his 1956 book on the power elite, documented how World War II solidified a trinity of power in the US that comprised corporate, military and government elites in a centralized power structure working in unison through “higher circles” of contact and agreement.

Neo-conservatives promoting the US Military control of the world are now in dominant policy positions within these higher circles of the US. Adbusters magazine summed up neo-conservatism as “The belief that Democracy, however flawed, was best defended by an ignorant public pumped on nationalism and religion. Only a militantly nationalist state could deter human aggression . . . Such nationalism requires an external threat and if one cannot be found it must be manufactured.”

In 1992, during Bush the First’s administration, Dick Cheney supported Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz in producing the “Defense Planning Guidance” report, which advocated US military dominance around the globe in a “new order.” The report called for the United States to grow in military superiority and to prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge us on the world stage.

At the end of Clinton’s administration, global dominance advocates founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Among the PNAC founders were eight people affiliated with the number-one defense contractor Lockheed-Martin, and seven others associated with the number-three defense contractor Northrop Grumman. Of the twenty-five founders of PNAC twelve were later appointed to high-level positions in the George W. Bush administration.

In September 2000, PNAC produced a 76-page report entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. The report, similar to the 1992 Defense Policy Guidance report, called for the protection of the American Homeland, the ability to wage simultaneous theater wars, perform global constabulary roles, and the control of space and cyberspace. It claimed that the 1990s were a decade of defense neglect and that the US must increase military spending to preserve American geopolitical leadership as the world’s superpower. The report also recognized that: “the process of transformation . . . is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event such as a new Pearl Harbor.” The events of September 11, 2001 presented exactly the catastrophe that the authors of Rebuilding America’s Defenses theorized were needed to accelerate a global dominance agenda. The resulting permanent war on terror has led to massive government defense spending, the invasions of two countries, and the threatening of three others, and the rapid acceleration of the neo-conservative plans for military control of the world.

The US now spends as much for defense as the rest of the world combined. The Pentagon’s budget for buying new weapons rose from $61 billion in 2001 to over $80 billion in 2004. Lockheed Martin’s sales rose by over 30% at the same time, with tens of billions of dollars on the books for future purchases. From 2000 to 2004, Lockheed Martins stock value rose 300%. Northrup-Grumann saw similar growth with DoD contracts rising from $3.2 billion in 2001 to $11.1 billion in 2004. Halliburton, with Dick Cheney as former CEO, had defense contracts totaling $427 million in 2001. By 2003, they had $4.3 billion in defense contracts, of which approximately a third were sole source agreements.

At the beginning of 2006 the Global Dominance Group’s agenda is well established within higher circle policy councils and cunningly operationalized inside the US Government. They work hand in hand with defense contractors promoting deployment of US forces in over 700 bases worldwide.

There is an important difference between self-defense from external threats, and the belief in the total military control of the world. When asked, most working people in the US have serious doubts about the moral and practical acceptability of financing world domination.

Additional Investigative Research Completed with Project Censored

Deconstructing Deceit:  9/11, The Media, and Myth Information

By Mickey S. Huff and Dr. Paul W. Rea, with online revision research assistance from Project Censored intern Frances Capell (2008).


This investigative report addresses the ongoing phenomena of media myth making and the events of September 11, 2001.  Corporate mainstream media have resurrected powerful myths from America’s past to shape public perception in the present. Through the prism of 9/11 as case study, one can see how the corporate mass media are in fact involved more myth in making than news reporting. This amounts to a form of censorship. Professors Huff and Rea examine central historic American myths that corporate media, and even much of the alternative independent media, have extended into the post-9/11 era, especially regarding the events of 9/11 themselves. This analysis looks at how media myth-making surrounding the events of 9/11, exploiting the strong emotions these events aroused, has prevented a dispassionate inquiry of its causes or of those responsible.

US Media Bias, Human Rights, and the Hamas Government in Gaza

By Janeen Rashmawi, Nelson Calderon, Sarah Maddox, Christina Long, Andrew Hobbs, and Peter Phillips (2008).


This investigative study was a content analysis of mainstream corporate news coverage of Hamas since the general elections in Palestine in January of 2006.

Ongoing Investigative Research Study Spring 2009

In the spring of 2009 seventeen students in the investigative research class at Sonoma state University conducted a study of the number of law enforcement related deaths that occurred in 2007 and will compare those deaths to an earlier database from 1997. Students used electronic newspaper databases to collect all the newspaper stories in the US that describe a police shooting or law enforcement related death. Additionally, students conducted in-depth interviews with fifteen families who had lost a loved one in a law enforcement related death in the San Francisco Bay area. Students also interviewed fifteen police officers regarding procedural training and law enforcement related deaths.

Chapter Conclusion

Undergraduate students at Somona State University completed the data collection for each of the studies listed above. Students used various social science research methods to address contemporary issues. The data collected is permanently available for further research, and the studies produced were published for public reading. Shorter op-eds were created and widely distributed through the Internet linking back to the original study online.

A study we produced in 2007, on the current capabilities of the US military use of electromagnetic (EMF) devices to harass, intimidate, and kill individuals, as well as the continuing possibilities of violations of human rights by the testing and deployment of these weapons, resulted in over 250,000 downloads in the first year after posting.9

We strongly believe that investigative research can be widely applied in colleges and universities throughout the US. Having students as researchers on important social justice, human rights, and inequality issues serves the dual purpose of training students and expanding knowledge for human betterment. Investigative research builds inspires media and democracy activism and demonstrates the possibilities of using independent media for public education and democracy building from the bottom up.

Colleges and University Professor who would like to publish summaries of their research for public review are invited to submit  papers:


1. G. Orfield, Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society:  A 21 Century Challenge (Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA),

2. Lee Bollinger, “Why Diversity Matters,” Educational Digest, Vol. 73 Issue 2, 2007, p. 26-29; M. J. Chang, N. Denson, K. Misa, and V. Saenz,  “The Educational Benefits of  Sustaining Cross-Racial Interaction among Undergraduates,” The

Journal of Higher Education, 77.3, 2007, p. 430-455; S. Hu, and G.D. Kuh, “Diversity Experiences and College Student Learning and Personal Development” Journal of College Student Development, 44.3, 2003, p. 320-334.

3. Peter Phillips, “Building a Public Ivy-Sonoma State University, 1994-2007: A Study of Student Racial Diversity and Family Income at SSU Compared to Other California State Universities,” Research by Nelson Calderon, Sarah Maddox, Carmela Rocha, and the Spring 2008 Investigative Sociology Class at Sonoma State University:Ashley Aldern, Reham Ariqat, Elizabeth Bourne, Nate Bradley, Niki Brunkhurst, Meredith Carey, Lea Carre, Kimberly Copperberg, Erica Elkington, Erin Garnett, Keri Kirby, Tara Loch, Lisa McKee, Particia Ochoa, Phillip Parfitt, Kelsey Percich, Nina Reynoso, Juana Som, Miasha Terry, Ruby Virelas, Nicholas Vos, Daniel Wyatt,

4. Lani Guinier, and Gerald Torres, The Miner’s Canary (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007).

5. David Moltz, “Not So White Noise About Diversity,” February 25, 2009,; Flashpoints Radio Show,; Guy Kovner, “Is SSU too white and wealthy?” March 23, 2009,

6. Peter Phillips, “A Black President Doesn’t Mean Racism is gone in America,”

April 15, 2009,

7. George Bush video,  “I am the Decider!”,  January 22, 2007,

8. David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, eds., 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out (Olive Branch Press, 2007); Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips, eds.,  Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney,  (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006).

9. Peter Phillips, Lew Brown and Bridget Thornton, “A Study of the History of US Intelligence Community Human Rights Violations and Continuing Research,”