Legislation attempts to keep teacher opinions out of classroom · 17 February 2005

By Sarah Krisel | The Exponent 02/18/05

Purdue officials are not in favor of a piece of proposed Indiana legislation that would give students a Bill of Rights.

The bill lists several rights that legislators think would give students a fair and balanced education by keeping political and religious views outside the classroom.

The bill is proposed by conservative representatives who are concerned that college students are being influenced by liberal professors. Similar bills in other states have had little success with being passed.

Similar bills have failed in California and Colorado; however, Georgia passed a resolution that is less binding.

Joe Bennett, vice president for University Relations, said the bill is not necessary.

"Our students are adults and we believe they are capable of dealing with and evaluating a variety of viewpoints," said Bennett.

Several points included clearly outlining criteria on how students would be graded, providing students with dissenting viewpoints on issues, demanding that faculty does not express its position on political, religious or anti-religious issues among others.

Terry Strueh, vice president of governmental relations, said the bill has been filed, put in the hopper and assigned to a committee, but there have not been any hearings scheduled.

He said the University wants the bill to maintain a low profile so a lot of attention is not drawn to it, because in other states similar bills have generated lots of emotion.

"That hasn't happened here," said Strueh.

The language in the Indiana version does not seem to be as troublesome for universities as compared to other pieces of legislation in other states.

Strueh said the bill calls for a fair and balanced approach to education, but these issues have already been addressed in the internal government structure of the University.

"The University expects faculty members to keep personal, political and religious views out of their teaching, but it does not tell them specifically what to teach or not teach," said Bennett. "Professors' freedom of expression in the classroom is a precious asset for the University and for its students."

Officials are worried that the bill could have serious unintended consequences.

"Decisions about what is taught at universities should not be made at the government level," said Bennett.