Academic Bill of Rights Comes to Minnesota · 02 March 2005

By the Associated Press--reprinted in the Pioneer Press--03/003/05

Two Republican Minnesota legislators called for a state law Wednesday that they say would guard against unfair treatment of students who don't agree with a professor's point of view.

Sen. Michele Bachmann of Stillwater and Rep. Ray Vandeveer of Forest Lake said a perceived liberal bias on college campuses has made it tough for conservative students. They claim that some are retaliated against with lower grades or classroom intimidation by left-of-center professors.

Their bill would require public colleges to adopt policies prohibiting political, ideological or religious beliefs from being used in grading. The bill would also demand that personal beliefs be excluded from hiring or firing decisions of faculty.

Similar bills have been introduced in 21 states, part of a push by conservative activist David Horowitz.

At a Minnesota Capitol news conference, Horowitz argued that professors are trying to indoctrinate students into a certain way of viewing the world, especially when it comes to politics.

"The classroom should not be a political soapbox," he said.

The chance of the bill's passage is probably slim, judging by the response of the chairwoman of a Senate higher education committee.

"If students feel like they are being treated unfairly, there are processes within the colleges they can go to if they felt there was a problem," said Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul. "I don't think the state needs to intervene here into the world of academic freedom."

Bachmann said she hopes that bringing the issue forward will inspire change even if the Legislature doesn't adopt such a law.

"When there's a little bit of pressure applied, that's when we see action," she said.