Motivating Change from Within · 08 April 2004

Among the successes of the past week is the outstanding press coverage we've received, including a lengthy article in The New York Times and forthcoming pieces in the Washington Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Segments on the Academic Bill of Rights will also be done on the Neal Boortz Show and NPR. Please keep tuned to our website for continuing press coverage.

On the legislative front, we're pleased to announce that the Academic Bill of Rights was introduced as House Bill 3185 in the state of Washington by Representatives Marc Boldt and Lois MaMahan. HB 3185 was referred to the House Education Committee, however there was not time in this legislative session to hear the bill. We expect the bill to be reintroduced during the next legislative session where it stands a good chance of moving out of committee to a vote of the full Washington State House. You can view the full text of the bill here .

David Horowitz is gearing up for another intensive tour of speaking engagements on campuses across the country. He'll be speaking at Emory (where the College Republicans raised his honorarium with no help from the student government) on April 15, followed by Grinnell on April 19, Ripon on April 20, University of S. Illinois at Carbondale on the 21st and Macalaster College on the 23rd. If you want to attend or would like to schedule David for a speech at your campus please contact Brad Shipp at

In further campus news, the UT-Austin SAF chapter headed by Erin Randall issued a press release denouncing a proposal by the university task force on racial respect and fairness to create an "honor code" that would function as a speech code to limit free expression on campus.

The proposal states that in order to follow "the president's charge of 'Examining our ability to exert greater behavior standards on the members of the student body and student organizations'" that the establishment of a "comprehensive Honor Code" is warranted that will address "interpersonal as well as academic behavior."

If this doesn't sound ominous enough, the code proposal also recommended that's that an "Honor Council" be established to "oversee enforcement of the proposed Honor Code."

UT Students for Academic Freedom "adamantly oppose such recommendations and call on concerned taxpayers and parents to contact their state representative and senator about the issue," states the press release.

As part of their efforts to bring greater intellectual diversity, the UT chapter is also engaged in an ongoing discussion with University President Larry Faulkner about the possibility of adding language recognizing the importance of intellectual diversity to the university's mission and respect for political difference to the university's mission statement.

In contrast with the UT strategy of engaging in constructive dialogue with administrators, a student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis recently launched a campaign to eliminate state funding for the women's studies department, essentially shutting it down, because the department "indoctrinate[s] students to a radical feminist agenda."

SAF indeed opposes indoctrination in the classroom, but we do not advocate the wholesale cancellation of any department or course, no matter how partisan or one-sided. This is a losing strategy. Students for Academic Freedom is a movement for intellectual diversity in the classroom. The only way to make lasting changes to the nature of academia is to work from within to diversify the curriculum. If the women's studies department leans leftward, ask that conservative authors such as Christina Hoff Sommers or Maggie Gallagher be added to course reading lists. If the links on a department website serve partisan causes, ask that the links be changed or diversified-don't demand that the website be abandoned or the department eliminated.

Threatening to close down a department amounts to censorship and serves to alienate the faculty and administrators whose support we most need to win. Critics of the intellectual diversity movement already accuse us of wanting to drive professors from the academy, eliminate courses and books. Please don't give university leaders an excuse to believe this falsehood.

While our ultimate goal remains the adoption of the full Academic Bill of Rights by colleges and universities, this victory may be a long time in coming. We have found that asking schools to adopt a simple provision agreeing to recognize intellectual diversity as a goal of the university's diversity office and to prohibit discrimination based on political beliefs is a highly effective intermediate strategy. Two schools, Brown University and Brooklyn College have already agreed to expand the missions of their campus diversity offices to include these protections for intellectual diversity and political beliefs, and the UT-Austin discussion with President Faulkner was begun on these grounds.

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. Even if your initial request is refused, the response from your administration will provide the building blocks to carrying on further discussion on academic freedom issues.

Best Regards,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom