Press release: Minnesota Legislators Unveil "Academic Bill of Rights" · 07 March 2005

Filed under: Minnesota

Telephone: 651.296.0548
Date: March 2, 2005

Vandeveer and Bachmann Unveil "Academic Bill of Rights"

Legislation Would Foster Greater Intellectual Diversity on Public College Campuses, Ensure the Rights of Students to Learn Without Fear of Intimidation or Reprisal

(St. Paul) Joined by professors, students, and the student rights and intellectual diversity movement's most prominent author and activist, David Horowitz, State Representative Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) and State Senator Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) today unveiled a Minnesota "Academic Bill of Rights" at a Capitol press conference in St. Paul.

The purpose of the proposed legislation, according to Vandeveer, Bachmann, and Horowitz, is to protect the rights of students at taxpayer-funded higher education institutions to learn and share their views in an environment free of intimidation and discrimination, and to ensure that such institutions don't hire, fire, grant tenure or deny promotions on the basis of political beliefs.

"I have two kids in college, and I want them to learn to be critical thinkers," said Vandeveer. "This bill will help to ensure that Minnesota college students are getting valuable exposure to all relevant points of view on a particular topic, which is essential to the development of such a mindset."

"While a liberal-to-far left tilt at our higher education institutions is nothing new, it seems that every day an egregious new case of intimidation, blacklisting, or otherwise unfair treatment of conservative students, student groups, and professors by faculty members or school administration officials comes to light," said Bachmann.

"The main point I would like to stress this morning is that the concept we're bringing forward is not new. An 'Academic Bill of Rights' will simply protect the mission established almost 100 years ago by the American Association of University Professors, which unfortunately seems to be falling more and more by the wayside at our 21st century American colleges and universities."

If passed into law, the governing body of each of the state's higher education institutions would adopt a policy stating that students will be graded on their knowledge and not punished for political, ideological or religious beliefs, and that faculty and instructors will not use their classroom to persistently introduce partisan, political subject matter unrelated to the course and cannot be hired, fired, promoted or tenured based on their personal beliefs.

The policy would also state that student fees will be distributed on a fair and equitable basis and shall maintain a posture of neutrality, and that campus administrations shall not permit the destruction of campus literature or allow the obstruction of invited speakers from speaking. A grievance procedure would be established for students or faculty experiencing an alleged violation.

Horowitz, an author and lifelong civil rights activist, is one the nation's most vocal and active critics of the nation's higher education establishment. In the 1990s he established the Individual Rights Foundation, which led the battle against speech codes on college campuses, and compelled the entire "president's cabinet" of the University of Minnesota to undergo five hours of sensitivity training in the First Amendment for violating the free speech rights of its students. More recently, he has traveled the nation to meet with lawmakers, university boards, and student governments to discuss the concept of an "Academic Bill of Rights."

"The purpose of the 'Academic Bill of Rights' is not to stack universities with conservative professors, as opponents of this bill will surely tell you, but to eliminate partisan politics from the college classroom altogether," said Horowitz. "If adopted, this legislation will ensure that Minnesota's higher education institutions will recognize scholarship rather than ideology as an appropriate academic enterprise, and will strengthen educational values that have been eroded by the unwarranted intrusion of faculty members' political views into the classroom."

Lawmakers in twenty-one other states have taken up proposals similar to Vandeveer and Bachmann's legislation.