What We're Up Against -- The Lying Pennsylvania Press · 21 November 2006

By David Horowitz


The Pittsburgh Post Gazette weighed in today with an editorial denouncing the Pennsylvania Academic Freedom Hearings as a "big waste of time." The editorial is based on last minute changes to the committee's "findings" and "recommendations" that were made by Rep. Lynn Herman who represents the Penn State district and is a shill for the teacher unions and the university administrators who are conducting a campaign to prevent the public from understanding what the committee actually found. At the time the Post-Gazette story was written, Herman's changes weren't even voted on (the editorial appeared at midnight, the vote was scheduled for 9AM). This shows how the teacher unions, the university administrations and members of the Pennsylvania House like Lynn Herman work hand in glove to cover their asses and deny Pennyslvania students their rights.

The key finding of the actual report is that there are NO academic freedom provisions for students in the state of Pennsylvania. All existing academic freedom provisions apply to professors but not students. The University of Pittsburgh doesn't even have academic freedom provisions for professors. A colossal disinformation campaign is underway in Pennsylvania to prevent the public from learning about this finding.

Here is how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sums up the findings and recommendations that were put in its hands by Lynn Herman BEFORE the committee voted on them. "The verdict: It turns out that political bias is rare at Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities. The committee concluded that a statewide policy governing college students' academic freedom is unnecessary, the Associated Press reported. Credit the committee with having the intellectual honesty not to go beyond the evidence. In its report, the committee also had some reasonable recommendations to protect against possible abuses. For example, it said public colleges should review existing academic-freedom policies to ensure that students understand their rights and the grievance procedures. But, really, you don't have to have a college education to understand that this was a big waste of time."

But there are no academic freedom rights for students in the state of Pennsylvania and there are no grievance proceedures for academic rights that relate to students. In fact, the Committee found that students in Pennsylvania have no academic freedom protections and recommends that Pennsylvania universities review their existing academic freedom policies and change them so that they protect students as well. The Post-Gazette and the teacher unions are engaged in a massive cover-up of this fact in a desperate effort to deny Pennsylvnia students of the right not to be indoctrinated by their activist professors. Here is what the report actually says:

Temple University

At the time of the hearings, the Temple University policy, which was part of Temple’s Faculty Handbook, was as follows: "[a]ll members of the faculty, whether tenured or not, are entitled to academic freedom as set forth in the 1940 Statement On Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure by the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors"…

At the time of these hearings, the Temple policy did not specify students or offer student protections. It was in faculty-related sections of the handbook and therefore not likely to be accessed by students. Additionally, it was not associated with any grievance policy specific to its provisions.

Pennsylvania State University

The Penn State policy HR 64 on academic freedom is especially admirable in making clear the distinction between First Amendment rights and the professional responsibilities of the classroom teacher to respect the academic freedom rights of students. No other policy of a Pennsylvania school approaches the Penn State policy for clarity and concreteness in defining the professional responsibilities of faculty in regard to students’ academic freedom.

As at most other Pennsylvania schools, however, the Penn State policy is expressed as a “faculty responsibility” not a student right. Consequently, while the policy specifies behavior that professors should avoid in the classroom, it offers no protections for students when confronted by such behavior and makes no provision for a student right to be free from political indoctrination by faculty. While describing inappropriate faculty behavior, it offers no basis for student complaints about such inappropriate behavior. However, according to the policy, “[i]f a faculty member feels that his or her academic freedom rights have been violated, the procedure listed in the policy entitled ‘Faculty Rights and Responsibilities,’ HR 76 may be used.”

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh Faculty Handbook contains a “Policy on Academic Integrity,” which states:

“It is the direct responsibility of faculty to encourage free inquiry and expression and to provide an academic environment in their classrooms and in their contact with students that reflects a high standard of integrity and is conducive to learning.”

Thus like the policy at Penn State, the Pitt “Policy on Academic Integrity” is addressed to faculty, not students, and is formulated as a faculty responsibility not a student right. Its placement under faculty responsibilities in the handbook is appropriate to this conception, but it is unlikely that a student looking for a list of his/her rights would be aware of this policy. Its formulation as a policy on academic integrity would not lead a student to connect it with issues of academic freedom. In testimony before the Committee, the university’s Provost, Dr. James Maher, conceded that “most of the academic integrity cases that come up involve accusation of cheating in exams and that is not really the focus of this Committee or today’s discussion. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education The 14 schools of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), almost without exception proclaim their commitment to academic freedom on their official websites. But these websites, so far as the Committee has been able to discern, without exception, provide no definitions of “academic freedom,” nor do they specify any protections associated with academic freedom. 

A system-wide provision for academic freedom does exist for PASSHE schools. This is the AAUP “Statement on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure.” But, this Statement and its provisions are part of the faculty-union contract, and thus do not specifically apply to students. Nor would they be accessible to students who did not have a reason to research the faculty union contract.

The President of Millersville University, Dr. Francine McNairy, testified on March 23, 2006 at the public hearing held on the Millersville campus. Comments from this testimony have been included below.

Dr. McNairy: As a capital university, meaning all 14 universities in the same system having the same collective bargaining agreement, Millersville has been diligent in developing policies to protect students’ academic freedom. And these are listed in the “Students’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” which is published on our website and in the Student Handbook and also our governance manual.

The Select Committee commends Dr. McNairy and her administration for specifying the rights that Millersville students have and informing them of their rights in a Student Handbook. The Committee notes however, that the policy leaves significant gaps where academic freedom issues are concerned. Thus, in its very first article defining “freedom” there is no mention of students’ rights not to be discriminated against because of their political affiliation or ideas.

Article I. Discrimination 

FREEDOM: Every aspect of university life should be free from discrimination because of race religion, color, ancestry, national origin, sex or sexual preference. Student housing organizations, athletics, classes and community facilities should be open to all who desire to participate.

In her testimony Dr. McNairy drew attention to Article XI, which is the only article in the “Student’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” that specifically discusses student academic freedom rights in the classroom:

Dr. McNairy: In particular, Article XI of the “Student’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” in the section entitled “In the Classroom” addresses the issue of academic freedom as follows: “Students should be free to express their thoughts and positions on all issues pertaining to curricular material being presented in the classroom.” This is an admirable policy, but the document does not contain the grievance process to be used if a student feels such rights have been violated. For this reason, it may be necessary to include a statement directing students to the location of a grievance process that can be used to file an academic freedom complaint if such rights are violated. 

Does indoctrination occur? The following sentence appears in the course description of a Millersville University sociology course, available on the university website: “Given these premises, this course is dedicated not to whether or not these theorists and participants in social movements are right or wrong in some kind of objective sense, but instead is dedicated to understanding the importance of changing the American social structure to bring about new forms of social justice, and to understanding the relationship between social theory and social praxis.”

The instructor’s dismissal of objectivity, and the commitment of his course to a political agenda of radical social change is hardly in keeping with academic freedom principles, such as Penn State’s admonition that, “In giving instruction upon controversial matters the faculty member is expected to be of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly, without supersession or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators.” 

Nor is it compatible with this classic statement of Robert Gordon Sproul, longtime president of the University of California: “The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the process whereby truth is to be made known. To convert or to make converts is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts…”