Changing Views for the Class · 26 October 2005

Filed under: Replies to Critics

In his recent column (Changing Views For the Class, 10/19) Teddy O'Reilly takes note of the evidence that stronger academic freedom protections for students are necessary, but dismisses legislation to ensure academic freedom as "a contradiction in terms."

Does O'Reilly think it is problematic that the federal government enforces racial and sexual anti-discrimination provisions? Why would a provision barring political discrimination be any different?

If anyone has such a concern, the solution is simple. Let the universities themselves step forward to ensure that such discrimination does not exist. Wherever universities have pledged to do this - specifically in the states of Colorado and Ohio - our legislation has been withdrawn. But the universities never would have acted had we not begun the legislative process in the first place.

O'Reilly further argues that professors "must have the latitude to criticize the opinions, ideas and institutions of the majority" and raises the fear that the Academic Bill of Rights "might silence professors."

There is no basis for such fears. The Academic Bill of Rights closely follows the academic freedom guidelines of the American Association of University Professors, first established in 1915. Among these guidelines is one which states that "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject."

Discussions of controversial matters related to the subject are fine. But professors should not use their classrooms as a platform for their partisan political agendas. That is a violation of students' academic freedom and it has been recognized as such for nearly a hundred years.

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom