Academic Bill of Rights full of folly · 15 September 2003

Our View -The Coloradoan, 9/16/03

Political activism has long been a part of college campuses, but an effort under way in Colorado to create an Academic Bill of Rights could curb freedom of expression more than encourage it.

State Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, guided by conservative David Horowitz, said lawmakers likely will introduce legislation supporting an Academic Bill of Rights during the next session of the Colorado General Assembly.

Usually it is Republicans who accuse Democrats of social engineering. The same term is applicable here, only this time the GOP is leading the charge. A bill that would require or even encourage that college faculty be hired, tenured and promoted "with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives," as Andrews described his proposal in the Coloradoan, is folly. What would those methodologies and perspectives be? And just who would decide if the new professors fulfill such criteria?

There is no secret that, generally speaking, college campuses tend toward the liberal side of the political realm. Andrews said the proposal is not about counting noses or quantifying ideologies, but it is doubtful GOP leaders would offer up the same proposal if campuses were dominated by the Young Republicans.

Rancor aside, this is not a problem that can be solved by passing unenforceable, ill-defined state legislation. Consumers, not lawmakers, are the people who should correct any perceived imbalances in education.

Although this thought-control proposal is poorly conceived, proponents do have some valid concerns. Colleges that refuse to book speakers with conservative viewpoints are limiting their students' education and shortchanging their ability to think analytically.

Regarding faculty, Andrews said, " ... there is a pretty effective but unstated rule out there: Conservatives need not apply (to colleges and universities)."

The best universities in this country encourage a sophisticated debate of the issues and diversity in their faculty. Those institutions that choose to stanch discussion and curb diversity do so at their own risk, losing respect, community standing and alumni support along the way. Free enterprise and freedom of choice -- two values also touted by Republicans -- are the best safeguards to ensure that campuses are open to all points of view.

Originally published Tuesday, September 16, 2003