Academic Bill of Rights Introduced in Colorado · 05 February 2004

The bill, which was introduced on Wednesday, puts forward four key principles of the Academic Bill of Rights as state statute.

• That students' academic freedom won't be infringed by instructors who attack their political or religious beliefs in class or who introduce controversial material substantially unrelated to the subject of study.

• That students will be graded solely on their answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and they shall not be discriminated against for their political or religious beliefs.

• That schools must distribute funds derived from students fees on a viewpoint-neutral basis and shall maintain neutrality with respect to substantive political or religious differences.

• That students will be made fully informed of their institutions' grievance procedures for violations of academic freedom.

The introduction of this legislation is a major victory for our organization and for the students at Colorado's colleges and universities who stand to benefit from its passage. We owe a debt of gratitude to those students in Colorado who found time amid final exams and end-of-term papers to deliver written and oral testimony at the ad hoc legislative committee hearings held last December.

This particular battle, however, is far from over. The Colorado press has begun once again to question the necessity for this legislation and to misconstrue its effects.
Denver Post columnist Jim Spencer wrote that the bill's establishment of new grounds for filing grievances, "begs for campus witch hunts by thin-skinned students, kids who didn't study and conniving political operatives," while claiming in the same piece that procedures for addressing academic freedom abuses already exist.

Reporter Colleen Buhrer asserted in the Rocky Mountain Collegian that, "If an event such as Sept. 11, 2001, was to happen again and this bill was to pass, no discussion would be able to occur in class," completely ignoring the very careful wording of the statute which states that controversial material in the classroom will only be considered inappropriate if it is "substantially unrelated to the subject of study." Rather than prohibiting discussion of 9/11, the bill would ensure that students felt comfortable launching discussions of this life-altering event in their history and political science classes.

And Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry went so far as to claim that, "this bill would allow fanatical lawmakers to destroy one of the greatest bastions of freedom and genius the world has every known: American colleges and universities."

We are certain to confront such deliberate obtuseness from the press at every stage of this campaign and so it is imperative that we be prepared to defend ourselves from such accusations and that we have evidence ready to demonstrate that the abuse of academic freedoms is severe and widespread.

The response to our new complaint form has been fantastic, and I urge you to please continue contacting us with your stories. By posting information about academic freedom violations on our website, we not only show the skeptics that the problem we're facing is real, but we also open the universities to that best of all disinfectants: sunlight.

If you are currently attending a class where the course readings are all one-sided or where your political or religious views are openly mocked by your professor, please let us know about it. We can suggest ways to confront this abuse and can assist you in creating a Students for Academic Freedom chapter for your campus. You can email me at sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or you can submit incidents through the online complaint for on our website at: http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/comp/complaints_form.asp

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