Academic Freedom Neutralizes Political Extremism · 12 April 2005

To the editor:

Dennis Clausen's recent article , (Academic Freedom Neutralizes Political Extremism, 04/04), claims that Senator Morrow's bill based on our Academic Bill of Rights would undermine academic freedom and lead to lawsuits by requiring that students' grades be based solely on their "reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge" of the subject they are being evaluated on. Clausen further claims that the bill would also "place a political litmus test on every class discussion, examination and course paper."

These allegations are absurd. Nearly every university already has a grievance process by which students can appeal their grades for any number of reasons, and there is no evidence that these policies have sparked frivolous lawsuits. Senator Morrow's bill simply makes explicit that grading students on their political or religious beliefs is unacceptable. Does Clausen really want to argue that a professor should be able to base a student's grade on something other their "reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge" of the subject material?

Clausen's claim that Morrow's bill would establish a political litmus test is similarly misguided. The bill makes no reference to the political views of any party or faction and states only that faculty should expose students to the "spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses" and that professors in the humanities should "respect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these area." Does this sound like the imposition of a far-right political agenda as Clausen claims?

Our organization is in full agreement with Clausen that our universities should be educational institutions, and "not propaganda machines" as he puts it. The Academic Bill of Rights introduced by Senator Morrow will help to accomplish just that.


Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom