Major Victories Across the Nation · 24 March 2004

The top news story of the week comes from Georgia where the Academic Bill of Rights Resolution, introduced by Senator Eric Johnson, sailed through the Georgia Senate on Tuesday with a sweeping 41-5 vote. The passage of this bill by such an overwhelming margin is a monumental victory for academic freedom, and provides a mandate to the state's colleges and universities to revise existing policies to promote greater respect for intellectual diversity on campus.

A stunning victory also occurred in Colorado, where State Representative Shawn Mitchell agreed to withdraw his bill based on the Academic Bill of Rights in exchange for the commitment of the presidents of the four major universities in that state to review their campus grievance and students rights policies and their pledge, "To help make the campus environment open and inviting to students of all political viewpoints."

Though the bill was expected to pass the legislature, the implementation of the Academic Bill of Rights at the university level has always been the primary goal for Students for Academic Freedom. By challenging these university presidents through legislation to uphold by the principles of academic freedom, we were able to achieve a personal commitment from these leaders that campus policies will be reviewed and revised to ensure that the academic freedoms of all students-even those in the political minority-are adequately protected. This personal commitment to reform the university from within is a much greater victory than the passage of legislation, which would have been imposed externally on an unwilling party.

Even with this victory, there remains a huge task at hand for the national organization and our local chapters in Colorado. It is up to us to oversee this process of reviewing campus grievance procedures and instituting policies that promote intellectual diversity. We look forward to working closely with University leaders and students in the state and will continue to bring you updates as the new face of higher education in Colorado takes shape.

Our campus chapters have also inspired headlines this past week with notable victories of their own.

Brooklyn College has become only the second college in the nation (after Brown University) to agree to include the "protection and promotion of intellectual diversity" in the mission statement of its Center for Diversity after a successful lobbying effort by the campus chapter of Students for Academic Freedom.

Chapter President Eldad Yaron sent a personalized version of SAF's national request letter to Professor Joseph Wilson, the director of the Center for Diversity, asking that he make this change.

"I am in essential agreement with the points you mention," Wilson replied. "I am glad to list intellectual diversity as part of the Center's mission. This will eventually be reflected on our web site and future brochures."

Eldad was able to parlay this victory into several stories in the campus paper which you can read here and here .

This reform at Brooklyn College is a major accomplishment and will serve as a model to other universities that are examining the ways in which they can improve the climate of intellectual diversity and academic freedom on their campuses.

If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to modify our sample letter and send it to the appropriate administrator at your university. You can find a copy of the sample letter here and instructions for how to proceed here. Make sure to send me an email to let me know when you have sent the letter. As the case of Brooklyn College demonstrates, sometimes all you have to do is ask.

The University of Montana chapter of SAF also scored a major victory this week with the passage of the Student Bill of Rights in the student senate. The bill was initially introduced last fall, but was delayed due to malicious accusations of plagiarism against the student senators who sponsored the bill. We are pleased to congratulate Montana SAF President Will Holmes and look forward to following the bill's progress as it is introduced to the faculty senate and the school's board of regents.

Best Regards,
Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom