Students for Academic Freedom Year-End Report · 31 December 2002

In its first academic year of operations, Students for Academic Freedom has become a nationwide campus movement dedicated to promoting intellectual diversity and to removing political partisanship from the classroom. SAF has inspired legislators in at least ten states and the U.S. Congress to take up the Academic Bill of Rights. Its website has become a leading destination for college students across America. As the end of the school year approaches, it's time to take stock of our record of accomplishment.

Principal achievements:

  • The creation of 135 chapters on as many college and university campuses across the country in just two school terms. Among the schools organized are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Duke, Brown, UCLA, Berkeley, U. Wisconsin-Madison, Missouri, Emory, Georgia Tech, Michigan and American University.
  • These chapters are collecting documentation of political abuses in the classroom and advocating passage of the Academic Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights calls on colleges and universities to end discrimination in hiring practices based on political or religious beliefs and to promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom on campus. By exposing partisanship in the classroom to public scrutiny, SAF has helped to create nationwide awareness of widespread classroom indoctrination and partisan discrimination on college campuses.
  • United States Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) has introduced the Academic Bill of Rights as House Concurrent Resolution 318, which calls for colleges and universities to voluntarily end discrimination in hiring practices based on political or religious beliefs and to promote intellectual diversity on campus. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has agreed to sponsor similar legislation in the U.S. Senate in September.
  • In Colorado, a bill to enshrine principles of the Academic Bill of Rights into state statute passed the House Education Committee on a 6-5 vote after nearly 3 and a half hours of testimony. Its sponsor, Rep. Shawn Mitchell, was then approached by the presidents of the University of Colorado and other major state institutions with a request that if he would withdraw his bill, they would voluntarily incorporate the provisions of the proposed law into university policy. In a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the university presidents, they agreed to promote and respect intellectual diversity at Colorado institutions of higher learning, revise campus grievance procedures to make certain that no student is penalized or discriminated against for his or her political opinions, and ensure that funds for student activities and guest speakers are fairly distributed to promote representation of diverse points of view. In addition, the university presidents agreed to sponsor discussions and initiatives to "ensure the campus environment is open and inviting to students of all political viewpoints." A legislative resolution enumerating the points of the Memorandum of Understanding and guaranteeing legislative follow-up was subsequently introduced by Senate President John Andrews and House Speaker Lola Spradley, and was adopted unanimously by the Colorado Senate, and overwhelmingly by the House.
  • In Georgia, a similar resolution introduced by Senator Eric Johnson was adopted by the Georgia State Senate on a 41-5 vote, after hearing testimony from Congressman Kingston, David Horowitz, and a number of Georgia college students who personally experienced discrimination on the basis of their political and religious beliefs. The resolution, which calls upon all universities in the State of Georgia to observe the principles of the Academic Bill of Rights, was sent to the Georgia Board of Regents and the presidents of every college and university in the state.
  • Legislators in 8 other states are already moving to introduce legislation based on the Academic Bill of Rights, including Missouri, Michigan, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, California, Utah, Washington and Ohio.
  • At its April conference, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bi-partisan body composed of over 2,400 state legislative officials, adopted both a model resolution and model statutory language based on the Academic Bill of Rights, and agreed to work with us to press for legislation in all fifty states. With the help of ALEC we expect the Academic Bill of Rights will be adopted by more than twenty states within the next year.
  • Administrators at Brown University and Brooklyn College have agreed to incorporate the idea of "intellectual diversity" in existing diversity programs. This means instituting respect for ideological and political difference, ensuring that under-represented points of view receive fair representation, and in general fostering a plurality of viewpoints on the campus. Discussions with the presidents of Emory, Grinnell and Brandeis, and with diversity administrators at Georgia Tech, Tufts and Bentley indicate a willingness to take similar steps. This will become a major effort of Students for Academic Freedom in the coming school year.
  • At Brown University the Undergraduate Student Council voted unanimously to pass a Resolution on Academic Freedom based on the Academic Bill of Rights. "I am elated about this," commented student Stephen Beale who introduced the resolution. "When I was a freshman the UCS passed a resolution condoning the theft of the campus newspapers. This represents a significant shift away from that attitude and is a major victory not only for students at Brown but also for Students for Academic Freedom nationwide."
  • Student Councils at the University of Montana, Utah State and three other schools have passed similar resolutions, as has the Faculty Senate of the University of Denver. An academic freedom resolution inspired by the Academic Bill of Rights was endorsed by the Cornell Daily Sun and failed passage by only one vote.

Other achievements (partial list):

  • San Francisco State University reversed the expulsion of student Tatiana Menaker, a Russian Jewish refugee, who had been expelled for five years after comments she made objecting to a Palestinian campus demonstration at which activists shouted "Hitler didn't finish the job." She was not granted a hearing in her own defense, but instead was immediately escorted off campus by three uniformed campus police officers. Students for Academic Freedom organized a "Tatiana Menaker Defense Committee" which succeeded in negotiating her immediate reinstatement as a student.
    At Metro State (Denver) student George Culpepper was banned from the Political Science Association by its faculty advisor Oneida Meranto, along with all College Republicans. When he testified about the episode to a Senate hearing for the Academic Bill of Rights, Professor Meranto publicly attacked him in the Denver Post, claiming that his testimony was sour grapes because he was failing her class. In fact, Culpepper was earning a B+ in her course until he voluntarily dropped it because of her bias. In making this false statement to the press, Meranto violated the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which forbids teachers from discussing their students' grades and educational progress publicly. SAF took up Culpepper's defense, bringing widespread media attention and Meranto's resignation as faculty advisor to the student Political Science Association.
  • At Georgia Tech, Ruth Malharto, a public policy major was told by her public policy professor that she would fail her course because she went to a conservative conference in Washington. SAF notified the dean of diversity at Georgia Tech, congressman Jack Kingston and the office of governor Sonny Perdue. All three intervened in behalf of the student who was allowed to withdraw from the course without penalty.
  • At Roger Williams University, located in Rhode Island, SAF helped to expose and document a clear-cut case of censorship. The president and administration of the school froze the funding of a conservative student publication, The Hawk's Right Eye, and publicly castigated the paper's editors for their viewpoints after the newspaper printed articles criticizing the lack of intellectual diversity among university-sponsored speakers this fall. Following a public outcry, the funding was unfrozen.
  • At Indiana University, Bloomington, Students for Academic Freedom launched an investigation into a Workplace Safety course which had been turned into a propaganda class against the United States and Israel and their efforts in the War On Terror. SAF students on campus spearheaded a movement joined by the Indiana Association of Scholars and faculty members on campus, to expose the misleading course description and ask the administration to make changes. The course has been completely revamped and the instructor reassigned.
  • At the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, SAF students conducted a detailed study on the political diversity of faculty at UNLV. The report showed a very large disparity favoring registered Democrats over Republicans among the faculty on that campus and discussed the repercussions that this could have for the education of all students. The research report, which can serve as a template for similar studies on other campuses, is available on the Students for Academic Freedom website.
  • At DePauw University in Indiana, Students for Academic Freedom supported College Republicans who were attacked by Director of Multicultural Affairs Jeanette Johnson-Licon because they had invited David Horowitz,to speak on campus. After SAF helped to publicize her comments, both Johnson-Licon and the university administration made full apologies to the students and to David Horowitz. The DePauw College Republicans and SAF chapter are planning meetings with the campus administration at which they will encourage the University to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights.
  • Students for Academic Freedom has taken out ads in more than two dozen ads in campus papers nationwide to challenge professors' abuse of their classrooms as political soap boxes.

Press comments on Students for Academic Freedom:

  • The nation's most prominent publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Los Angeles Times have all taken note of SAF's remarkable record of achievement. International coverage has also appeared in the London Times and The Australian.
  • "I wish to hail David Horowitz's latest project, his 'Academic Bill of Rights,' a proposal from Students for Academic Freedom," wrote Jay Nordlinger, the managing editor of National Review magazine. "The idea is to promote genuine diversity - diversity of thought - on campus. And to protect students and faculty from ideological bullying (of which I, like many others, got huge doses while in college….This is a hugely important effort."
  • "David Horowitz sure knows how to make college administrators squirm," commented an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. "The talent dates from his radical days in the early 1960s, when as a grad student he found himself hauled before Berkeley officials upset at a protest he had organized without first getting a permit. More than four decades later he's still unsettling the campus hierarchy, but this time it's over something it is already supposed to believe in: academic freedom."
  • "When a student at a Colorado school wrote an essay on why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal, instead of why George W. Bush was, as her professor asked, she received a failing grade….Which is why we are more than encouraged to hear that the Academic Bill of Rights (ABR) campaign is gaining serious momentum on campuses all across the country," stated the Washington Times.

Students for Academic Freedom has already demonstrated its ability to expand the scope of academic freedom across the nation. We plan to take this mission even further in our second year of operations. Our top priorities for the coming year are to get the Academic Bill of Rights adopted as university policy and the idea of "intellectual diversity" incorporated into existing diversity programs, and to expand the number of states adopting the Academic Bill of Rights. We will also promote intellectual diversity enrichment programs on as many campuses as possible.

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom