Asking Campus Diversity Offices to Live Up to Their Names · 26 February 2004

In Colorado Representative Shawn Mitchell's academic bill of rights passed the Education Committee of the State Legislature this week.

In Georgia, State Senator Eric Johnson introduced the Academic Bill of Rights in the Georgia State Senate on February 3rd, 2004. The resolution calls for colleges and universities to voluntarily end discrimination in hiring practices based on political or religious beliefs and to promote intellectual diversity on campus.

As our legislative agenda picks up steam, it is imperative that we continue to press individual campuses from within to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights and its precepts. Up to this point, we have relied upon two main tactics to persuade administrators that the Academic Bill of Right is necessary. These are: a.) the documentation and exposure of abuses of academic freedom on campus and b.) the passage of the Student Bill of Rights in student governments. Both of these strategies have thus far been very successful and I urge you to please continue to submit complaint forms to us (you can do this through our website here) and to push your student governments to consider the SBOR.

Now we are preparing to inaugurate a third strategy. We are starting a movement to ask campus diversity offices at universities across the country to add the promotion of intellectual diversity to their mission statements. Virtually all campuses have policies actively promoting racial and cultural diversity, if such efforts are not forbidden by state laws. Intellectual diversity is the cornerstone of the academy. Academic freedom is inconceivable without a free-flowing intellectual discourse. Shouldn't these official campus "diversity" offices have an obligation to promote the diversity of ideas?

We are further requesting that these offices include "political beliefs" as a category protected from discrimination. Most universities already protect their students and faculty from discrimination based on race, sex, religion and even sexual orientation. In order to encourage the expression of minority viewpoints and the free exchange of ideas, it is crucial that universities protect students and faculty from discrimination on political grounds as well.

We have already achieved one notable victory in this arena. Following David Horowitz's visit to Brown University last October, the school's Director of Institutional Diversity, Brenda Allen, agreed to include intellectual diversity as an official part of her program. University President Ruth Simmons has also embraced this idea. If two African-American female administrators at one of the most ideologically one-sided schools in the country are willing to support a program to enrich intellectual diversity at their school, then so can other institutions of higher learning.

Members of Brown's Students for Academic Freedom chapter have been invited to participate in planning meetings with Provost Allen on ways to enrich intellectual diversity at Brown. One topic is increasing the diversity of Brown's speakers program. Provost Allen has already provided money from the diversity program to help College Republicans bring Andrew Sullivan to speak on campus. This is a huge step forward for our movement.

How to get involved:

To simplify this latest campaign, Students for Academic Freedom has prepared a sample letter for you to send to your campus diversity office requesting that they make these changes in policy and noting that Brown University has already endorsed them. I've attached a copy of this letter here , and we'll also be posting it on the website with our other chapter materials. Please personalize this letter for your SAF chapter and send it immediately to the appropriate administrator (usually the director of diversity or head administrator in the office of diversity and equal opportunity). Make sure to take a look at your college's official diversity statement (this should be easy to find on your school website) to check that you are not asking the office to duplicate any existing policies, and modify the letter if necessary.

It will be helpful to your request if you research the last two years of invited speakers including how much they were paid. Then you can demand parity for conservatives.

Please send me an email at sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org to let me know when you have sent the letter, as we'll be keeping tabs on how many campuses have requested these policy changes and will be putting out a press release noting the number of schools that have been asked to make these changes in policy.

By using the existing structures and policies of the university, this new campaign has the potential to inspire immediate change in campus policies on intellectual diversity which will extend to the selection of speakers, the assignment of required readings, the funding of student organizations and many other areas of campus life.

Best Regards,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom