Response to Toledo Blade · 17 July 2006

Filed under: Ohio, Replies to Critics

In his recent column [Myths, realities about academic freedom, 06/24] Bowling Green Professor Mark Simon makes several statements that misrepresent the Academic Bill of Rights and understate the problems it was designed to correct.

Prof. Simon points out that academic freedom places limits on professors' speech in the classroom, forbidding them from "spout[ing] off on religion or politics when it has no relation to the subject" they are teaching. Yet he fails to mention that this key principle of students' academic freedom is almost entirely absent from student handbooks at universities across the nation. When it is cited at all, it is only in faculty handbooks which students have no cause to consult.

Simon seriously misrepresents the Academic Bill of Rights, when he claims that David Horowitz "has suggested that all theories should be provided equal time in the classroom." David Horowitz has never made such a suggestion. His Academic Bill of Rights states that "exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty" (emphasis added). It says nothing about providing equal time for any views, or teaching theories regardless of academic merit.

Similarly, there is nothing in the Academic Bill of Rights (or in the state resolutions inspired by it) that threatens "government oversight" of curricula, as Professor Simon claims. These resolutions are merely designed to ensure that existing academic freedom guidelines are enforced and that students are aware of their rights. If Prof. Simon truly believes his own statements about academic freedom, he should enthusiastically support the Academic Bill of Rights. In any case he should not misrepresent it as he has in this column.

Sincerely,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom