Ohio Colleges to Adopt Rules on Students' Free Speech Rights · 10 October 2005

Filed under: Ohio, Press Coverage

By John McCarthy--Associated Press--10/11/05

COLUMBUS - The state's public four-year colleges are prepared to adopt rules to safeguard the rights of students whose ideas conflict with those of their professors.

Backers of the proposal say they are overdue, but some faculty say they are unnecessary.

The Inter-University Council of Ohio on Tuesday will poll the state's 13 public universities and two medical schools, which are expected to unanimously adopt a resolution outlining the free speech rights of students and faculty, said James McCollum, executive director of the council.

The move stops a bill in the Ohio Senate that would have mandated that universities operate in an environment "in which students have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion" and not be "discriminated against on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs."

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Larry Mumper of Marion, has agreed to shelve the bill once the universities vote on the proposed resolution. He introduced it after hearing complaints that some students were being punished for stating political views that differed from those of their professors, he said.

The resolution states that Ohio's four-year public colleges "are committed to valuing and respecting diversity of ideas, including respect for diverse political viewpoints." However, the colleges reserve the right to implement those policies, the resolution says.

"What we've committed to do is for our campuses to go back and look at their policies and procedures and make sure there is no gap," McCollum said.

Mumper said he's satisfied with the resolution and preferred it to legislating policy for the colleges, but the colleges have to make good on their promises.

"We're not dictating each policy. If they don't carry out the program, the bill is still laying there in committee," Mumper said Monday.

Some professors wondered what all the fuss was about. Mumper's bill was modeled after principles advocated by Students for Academic Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based student network founded by conservative activist David Horowitz.

Phyllis Bernt, a professor of communications and member of the Faculty Senate at Ohio University, said the environment at the school already encourages the airing of diverse views.

"We looked at this whole issue as ... unnecessary and a reaction to a perception that there is some kind of political brainwashing that really isn't going on," Bernt said. "Institutions have in place already policies that students cannot be mistreated."