Response to Philadelphia Inquirer · 20 November 2006

By Rep. Gib Armstrong

Martha Raffaele’s article (Academic Bill of Rights Flunked, 11/15) entirely misrepresents the Pennsylvania legislative committee’s recent findings on academic freedom and claims that they ruled an academic bill of rights was unnecessary when in fact they concluded the exact opposite.


 The committee report states that “a significant number of institutions had adopted faculty academic freedom policies, but not student academic freedom policies” and therefore recommends that “Public institutions of higher education within the Commonwealth should be required to review existing academic freedom policies and procedures and, where necessary, take actions to make a readily-available student-specific academic freedom policy that includes student rights and a detailed grievance procedure.” 

Rather than “flunking” the Academic Bill of Rights, the committee directly acknowledges the paucity of current protections for students and recommends that each public college and university in Pennsylvania establish its own academic bill of rights (what is a “student-specific academic freedom policy that includes student rights” if not an “academic bill of rights”) to ensure that students’ academic freedom is sufficiently protected.  

One campus, Temple University in Philadelphia, was already inspired by the hearings to act on these recommendations. In July, Temple became the first campus in the nation to adopt a policy that specifically protects students’ academic freedom and gives students the right to file a grievance with their board of trustees if their rights are abused. 

If the 17 other public institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania take the committee’s recommendations seriously they will follow suit and adopt their own student bills of rights. These are exactly the reforms I hoped to achieve by introducing House Resolution 177 last year, and I am pleased to see that we have succeeded in making a difference for Pennsylvania’s students. Sincerely,

Rep. Gib Armstrong

Sponsor of PA House Resolution 177