AAUP Opposes Academic Bill of Rights in NY · 25 January 2006

Filed under: New York

AAUP Opposes Academic Bill of Rights in NY

Editor's Note: The following is a notice from the American Association of University Professors to oppose legislation based on the Academic Bill of Rights in New York State.

Help Stop Passage of NY Senate Bill S6336 to Amend the NY State Education Law

"Academic" bill of rights coming out of the Higher Education Committee

January 10, 2006

On January 9, 2006 Defrancisco et al (Golden, Johnson, Larkink, Maltese, Meier, Morahan, Padavan, and Trunzo) introduced S6336 in the Senate Higher Education Committee. It is an act to amend the education law by by adding a new section 224-b creating an "academic" bill of rights.

Can you please alert your colleagues and chapters to protest this bill coming out of the Higher Education Committee? A stance against it is a non-partisan educational issue insofar as 1. Many republicans/conservatives, liberals are as much against government interference in the lives of our citizens be they students and/or faculty members as democrats and members of the working families party. 2. When it ain't broke, don't fix it. 3 The Bill of Rights and its amendments also applies to Higher Education. Why this special delusional legislation?

My 2005 NYS Legislative Guide (the 2006 Guide is not yet published) lists the chair of this committee as: Kenneth P. LaValle, R/C/ District 1 Suffolk: lavalle@senate.state.ny.us

The sponsor of the bill, John A. DeFrancisco R District 50 (Deputy Majority Leader) jdefranc@senate.state.ny.us is not a member of the Higher Education Committee.

Reading through the list of Senate members and the committees on which they serve, other members of the Higher Education Committee appear to be (please do not hesitate to send corrections):

James S, Alesi R District 55: alesi@senate.state.ny.us
Michael A.L. Balboni R/C/I, District 7: balboni@senate.state.ny.us
John J. Flanagan R/C/L, District 2: Flanagan@senate.state.ny.us
Liz Kreuger (Democrate/Working Families), from my district (I am going to call her) lkreuger@senate.state.ny.us
Serphin R. Maltese R/C District 15 (also Deputy Majority Whip): maltese@senate.state.ny.us
Kevin Parker D/WF District 21: parker@senate.state.ny.us
Mary Lou Roth R/C District 61: rath@senate.state.ny.us
David J. Valesky D District 49: valesky@senate.state.ny.us
George H. Winner, Jr. R District 53: winner@senate.state.ny.us

Here are some excerpts from the bill:

AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to creating an academic bill of rights

Section 1. The education law is amended by adding a new section 224-b to read as follows:

Academic bill of rights.

1. A student enrolled in an institution of higher education has the right to expect:

a. A learning environment in which the student has access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion pertaining to the subjects the student studies in which, in the humanities, the social sciences and the arts, the fostering of a plurality of serious scholarly methodologies and perspectives has a significant institutional purpose;

b. To be graded solely on the basis of the student's reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects the student studies and to not be discriminated against on the basis of the student's political or religious beliefs;

c. That the student's academic freedom and the quality of education will not be infringed upon by instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to the subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose;

d. That the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience of students and student organizations are not infringed upon by administrators, student government organizations or institutional policies, rules or procedures; and

e. That the student's academic institution distributes student fee funds on a viewpoint-neutral basis and maintains a posture of neutrality with respect to substantive political and religious disagreements, differences and opinions.

2. A faculty member or instructor at an institution of higher education has the right to expect:

a. Academic freedom in the classroom in discussing subjects while making the students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than that of the faculty member or instructor and encouraging intellectual honesty, civil debate and the critical analysis of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge and truth;

b. To be hired, fired, promoted, denied promotion, granted tenure or denied tenure on the basis of competence and appropriate knowledge in the field of expertise of the faculty member or instructor and not on the basis of political or religious beliefs; and

c. To not be excluded from tenure, search and hiring committees on the basis of political or religious beliefs.

3. An institution of higher education shall fully inform students, faculty and instructors of the rights under this section and of the institution's grievance procedures for violations of academic freedom by notices prominently displayed in course catalogs or student handbooks and on the institutional publicly accessible site on the Internet.

4. The governing board of an institution of higher education shall develop institutional guidelines and policies to protect the academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty under this section and shall adopt a grievance procedure by which a student or faculty member may seek redress of grievance for an alleged violation of a right specified in this section.

A governing board under this subdivision shall:

Publicize the grievance procedure developed pursuant to this subdivision
To the students and faculty on every campus that is under the control 27 and direction of the governing board.

The justification given is the following:

"Every institution of higher learning has a duty to promote intellectual diversity on campus. Too often, students find many college classes biased or one-sided. The ideas of all students and faculty members should be treated with respect, and all ideas deserve to be represented on campus.

Professors and administrators have an obligation to make students aware of a broad range of viewpoints and perspectives. They are not hired to teach only students who share their political or philosophical views, and professors should never force their own views upon their students. The classroom is not and should never be a soapbox for a professor to promote his or her point of view.

The Academic Bill of Rights has been introduced as legislation in a number of state legislatures, and a few states have already adopted a form of the Academic Bill of Rights. In one of the most recent examples, the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives -- in July 2005 -- passed a resolution supporting the principles of the Academic Bill of Rights."

PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS REQUEST