Breaking News: Victory for Academic Freedom in Colorado · 17 March 2004

Filed under: Press Coverage

For Immediate Release

March 18, 2004

University Presidents Pledge to Incorporate Principles of the Academic Bill of Rights into School Policy

Colorado Bill Sponsors Agree to Withdraw Pending Legislation as a Result

DENVER-March 18, 2004. In a surprising and encouraging development in the fight for academic freedom, state representative Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) announced today that he is withdrawing House Bill 1315 in exchange for the commitment of university leaders to revise campus policies and procedures to better protect students from political discrimination and their pledge, "To help make the campus environment open and inviting to students of all political viewpoints."

The memorandum of understanding, signed by the presidents of four major universities in Colorado, stipulates that each institution will immediately revise its campus policies to ensure that political diversity is explicitly recognized and protected, that the academic rights of students and grievance procedures are adequately publicized, and that a dialogue be initiated to address other concerns regarding the climate on campus.

While the bill was expected to win passage in the State House, students, faculty, and university administrators alike praised the new development as a much better solution to the problem. "Legislation can be somewhat unwieldy at times, so a willingness on the part of university leaders to deal with the problems of bias and abuses of academic freedom in a proactive way is to be commended," said Ryan Call, State Coordinator of Students for Academic Freedom. "From the beginning, it has been our position that if institutions were willing to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights on their own, then legislation would not be necessary."

University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman, Metro State President Raymond Kieft, and student leaders participated in the 11am press conference at the Colorado State Capital this morning. The presidents described how special taskforces and working groups are already being organized to review policies and procedures and initiate a dialogue with students, faculty, and legislators on how best to protect academic freedom and promote true ideological diversity.

House Bill 1315 had been developed and promoted with the assistance of Students for Academic Freedom, the Colorado Student Association, and other student groups who were concerned about the prevalence of academic bias and the hostility exhibited on campus and in the classroom toward certain political and religious views. Speaking to the students whose concerns the bill had been designed to address, President Hoffman declared that, "The University of Colorado has heard your concerns," and even though this legislation has been withdrawn, "be assured that you have not lost the university's attention."

Students for Academic Freedom is most appreciative of the efforts of Representative Mitchell, Senator Andrews, and others who have helped to bring attention to this important issue," said Call. "We applaud the leadership of President Hoffman and the other university presidents in acknowledging students' concerns, and for being willing to take active steps to protect their academic rights. SAF looks forward to the opportunity to participate in a dialogue to help promote the principles of Academic Freedom, encourage the free exchange of ideas, and improve the quality of higher education in Colorado."

For more information, please contact Ryan Call at 303-641-4274 or Elizabeth Ruiz at 800-752-6562, ext. 202.