Ohio Students to get 'Bill of Rights' · 20 October 2005

Filed under: Ohio, Press Coverage

By Bill Rodgers--Youngstown State University Jambar--10/18/05

A resolution, which some say protect students from the opinions of their professors, was endorsed by the Inter-University Council of Ohio at a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Youngstown State University is among those on the IUC.

The resolution is a compromise of Senate Bill 24, which was championed earlier this year by State Sen. Larry Mumper (R - Marion) as an Academic Bill of Rights for students. Mumper said in February the legislation was necessary to keep students from being "indoctrinated" into the opinions held by their professors.

The bill drew criticism from YSU faculty who said the bill would limit free speech and their ability to teach students effectively.

The resolution begins by saying that public universities should value and respect the diversity of ideas and that "neither students nor faculty should be evaluated on the basis of their political opinions." It reads that anyone who felt he or she has been treated unfairly should have access to a grievance process. It calls for each university to review its students' rights and grievance procedures with respect to fostering diversity in the classroom.

The resolution declares that Ohio universities should welcome "intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas." The resolution calls for debate between differing issues about which some individuals would disagree.

The debate issue in the resolution differs from the language of S.B. 24, which declared that professors should make students aware of serious scholarly opinion other than their own. The resolution declared that not all ideas have equal scholarly merit; what's admissible for the classroom must be evaluated by the standards of academic profession established by the community of scholars at each university.

Furthermore, the resolution declares that, "policies that protect students' rights should not cast doubt on professors' academic freedom." Instead of having every university in Ohio governed by policies set forth in a law, the resolution declares that it's up to each of the universities to create policies that respect the rights of members of the university community.

Mumper said that the original legislation was a little stricter than the resolution IUC adopted, but that it was probably the way the issue should be solved.

"Several college professors talked to me behind the scenes and said this was long overdue," Mumper said.

Mumper said the resolution was a "good compromise" and that it gave individual universities the freedom to work out solutions to the problems themselves without having to "copycat" each other.

Mumper said he was "hopeful and encouraged" by university presidents' reaction to the resolution. He added he was willing to let the universities solve the problems individually.

"We're in a sort of wait-and-see period. The bill obviously isn't dead until Jan. 1 st of next year," Mumper said, citing an editorial by the Cleveland Plain Dealer which said that if college universities failed to address the issue, that Mumper and his peers would return.

"A student's education should not be compromised by a professor's opinion or ideological beliefs. Students are coming in for a product and that's what they should get. They shouldn't be told what to think," Mumper added.

Student Government Association President Bob McGovern said that the differences between the resolution and the proposed senate bill were "a step in the right direction." McGovern noted how YSU already had grievance procedures for students who felt their rights were violated.

"It's letting the state level know that we don't want standards imposed on us when we have standards of our own," McGovern said of the resolution.

Mumper said he would be presenting the resolution at a conference in Florida.

The bill was based on ideas from a Washington, D.C. advocacy group, Students for Academic Freedom, which was founded by conservative columnist David Horowitz, who once said in a column "Universities should not be indoctrination centers for the political left."

Call Bill Rodgers at (330) 941-1989.