Academic Bill of Rights is Needed · 07 March 2005

Students need professors who teach both sides of the story, don't grade on politics and are professional.

By Jordan Rockwell--MNdaily.com--03/07/05

I am responding to the Friday editorial, "Academic bill of rights unneeded." A "student bill of rights" (basically the same thing) is needed on this campus and most others, and I'll tell you why. The editorial complained that the bill would shelter students from difficult realities.

I have to disagree. A "student bill of rights" would most certainly not shelter students. That is ridiculous. Unfortunately, many students are being sheltered right now. This bill would actually work to stop professors from sheltering students, calling for intellectual diversity and inclusiveness in the classroom.

In areas of uncertainty and controversy (i.e., political science, economics, humanities, history, etc.), students often aren't being exposed to both sides of an issue in the classroom. Professors are abusing their power of influence; ask any objective student with some experience. That is why this bill and this movement are getting support from so many students - and not just conservative ones.

I found it hard to accept that a significant number of professors aren't professional, but that is nonetheless the reality. To the editorial's second point about how universities should make decisions about professors' teaching habits themselves, it is right in theory, but the university clearly doesn't think there is a significant problem.

You could speculate as to why; maybe they welcome and support U.S. academia becoming a political monolith, maybe not. But something needs to change. The problem persists because University administrations and the American Association of University Professors don't want to admit that there is a problem or don't want to do anything about it for any number of reasons.

In one instance at a Michigan Community College, I became vocal playing devil's advocate and disagreeing openly with my professor about contemporary political issues. As a result, I feel my test and essay grades (subjectively graded) suffered. The work was the same quality. Of course I couldn't prove it so nothing was done. It was clear to me her first priority was indoctrination.

This bill was not originally intended to be put into state law. Universities were to implement it themselves. Unfortunately, most have done very little; claiming it uneccessary. So it has been brought to legislators' attention, and is being debated in 20 states.

In the past, nobody has really done anything, and now there is a viable solution: the Academic Bill of Rights. If you are going to denounce it, have an alternate solution to replace it with.

We are starting a Students for Academic Freedom group here, so I encourage all interested to keep their eyes open and get involved. Log on to www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org for more information. Our group and the editorial board appear to want the same things: professors who teach both sides of the story, don't grade on political beliefs and are professional. More accessible teacher evaluations would help, but something more significant has to be done.

If this bill truly isn't needed, if higher education is intellectually healthy and diverse, and professors are professional and responsible scholars and teachers, then this bill, even if it passes, won't affect anything - nothing will change.

Basically, if it's not broken, it won't be fixed. Unfortunately, it is broken in many cases. There are mass violations to students' right to learn today. This bill will strengthen U.S. universities. This is a nonpartisan initiative - this isn't a "conservative vs. liberal" issue, it's a students' issue.

Obviously, conservatives are more active in trying to change it. But if liberals truly believe in their ideals, they should also support this bill and its cause. I encourage all students who want intellectual diversity (arguably the most important kind) and independent thought and speech on campus to support this cause. Let's restore the freedom to learn.

Jordan Rockwell is a University undergraduate. Please send comments to letters@mndaily.com.