For Immediate Release
July 20, 2006
Contact: Elizabeth Ruiz
Temple University Trustees Adopt Policy on Students' Academic Rights
Yesterday (July 19), Temple University in Philadelphia became the first university to adopt an academic freedom policy which specifically addresses student rights and not just faculty privileges; protects students from ideological abuses in the classroom; and provides a grievance machinery to handle violations of students' academic freedom.
Titled "Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities," the new policy which will take effect on August 1 of this year reflects the concerns and recommendations of Students for Academic Freedom, which has promoted David Horowitz's proposal for an Academic Bill of Rights, and which played an important role in the academic freedom hearings of the Pennsylvania House, which were held at Temple on January 9 and 10 of this year.
The policy emphasizes that students as well as professors are entitled to academic freedom: "Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus, and in the larger community. The University and the faculty have a responsibility to provide students with opportunities and protections that promote the learning process in all its aspects. Students similarly should exercise their freedom with responsibility."
Equally important is a provision creating grievance machinery for students whose rights have been infringed. The policy specifies that this new grievance procedure is distinct from existing policies for handling grading disputes, and specifically addresses the student's right to learn, free from political harassment and indoctrination. It outlines a procedure whereby a student can take a series of informal and then formal steps to challenge violations of academic freedom within the administration hierarchy.
In a passage largely based on the American Association of University Professors' 1940 "Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure" and the current Temple academic freedom policy outlines both the privileges and obligations that academic freedom demands of faculty in the classroom:
"Faculty are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subjects, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial (or other) matter which has no relation to their subject. The faculty member is responsible, however, for maintaining academic standards in the presentation of course materials."
The policy further provides for a reporting system that includes the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.
Unlike the existing academic freedom policies at Temple, the new policy will be included in the university catalogue that is distributed to all students. It has already been posted in the Policies and Procedures section of the university website so that all students will be made aware of their rights. This has been a prominent demand of the academic freedom campaign.
The policy can be found here: http://policies.temple.edu/getdoc.asp?policy_no=03.70.02
The background to the development of Temple's new academic freedom policy is the academic freedom hearings which were held by a select committee of the Pennsylvania House at Temple this past January. These hearing were authorized by House legislation HR 177 sponsored by Representative Gibson Armstrong.
Speaking for the academic freedom campaign which had pressed for the House hearings, David Horowitz testified that Temple was in need of a grievance procedure that specifically addressing academic freedom violations: "Temple University has an Academic Freedom Policy," he told the legislators. "It is regularly disregarded. There are no readily available or effective means for members of the Temple community to address the violations of academic freedom that occur regularly in Temple classrooms and are integral to [many] Temple courses."
Commenting on the newly adopted policy, Horowitz said: "This policy change is an important victory for Temple students and for the University as a whole. The new policy should serve as a model to academic institutions nationwide. By establishing this policy Temple has effectively shifted institutional power in the university, bringing students into the equation for the first time."
Students for Academic Freedom is a national movement to promote intellectual diversity and to restore educational values to America's institutions of higher learning. The organization recommends that colleges and universities adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to ensure that these principles are respected. The Academic Bill of Rights is available on the organization's website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.