A Major Victory in the Battle for Academic Freedom · 23 June 2005

 

By David Horowitz - FrontPageMagazine.com 06/23/05


For nearly two years, we have conducted a campaign for academic freedom on American campuses. Our goal has been to restore educational values to the university, and in particular to get university administrations to adopt an "Academic Bill of Rights" that would foster intellectual diversity, fairness and equity in higher education. For this effort we have been compared to McCarthyites, Maoists, and Orwellian thought police by some of our overheated opponents. Others have been silent, watching the battle but not taking an active part. Now that has changed and the Education Establishment itself has stepped forward to weigh in the side intellectual diversity and academic fairness. The American Council on Education and a coalition of 22 college and university associations, including the American Association of University Professors (who had declared our bill a "grave threat to academic freedom") have issued a statement that endorses the central principles of our bill and represents a great step forward in the academic freedom struggle.

We welcome this unexpected development and are printing copies of our press release and the American Council on Education statement below.

Press release -- Thursday June 23, 2005

Academic Bill of Rights author, David Horowitz, praises new initiative on intellectual diversity and academic freedom issued by the American Council on Education and signed by 22 college and university associations, including the american association of university professors.

In a statement released this morning, David Horowitz, the author of the Academic Bill of Rights which is the model for pending legislation in more than a dozen states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, hailed the new initiative as a "major concession" by university authorities in his ongoing campaign for academic freedom:

"This is an important official step in recognizing that serious problems of political exclusion and political harassment exist on our college campuses, and an even more important step in moving towards a non-partisan solution that will protect the university as an institution. Specifically he welcomed:

· theAmerican Council on Education's endorsement of "academic freedom and intellectual pluralism" as "central principles of American higher education." These are the principles embodied in the Academic Bill of Rights.

· theAmerican Council on Education's statement that "colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas," and that all intellectual discussions in a university setting "should be held in an environment characterized by openness, tolerance and civility."

· theAmerican Council on Education's statement that there should be no political discrimination against professors or students and thus that they should "not be disadvantaged on the basis of their political opinions."

· the American Council on Education's statement that "any member of the campus community who believes that he or she has been treated unfairly on academic matters must have access to a clear institutional process by which his or her grievance can be addressed."

Horowitz commented: "The statement by the American Council on Education and 22 university and academic associations is, we hope, the beginning of a concerted effort by university administrators and faculties to put their houses in order. We applaud these endorsements of intellectual pluralism and fairness, especially because they come from the university community. It was never our intention in launching the Academic Bill of Rights to impose legislative solutions on universities and university faculties. It was always our desire that legislative attention would prompt the university community to do the right thing and to honor the principles of academic freedom to which their institutions are already committed.

"We have been as good as our word on this point. In Colorado, in 2004, when university presidents asked the legislative sponsors of the Academic Bill of Rights to withdraw our legislation if they would adopt the Academic Bill of Rights as university policy, our legislators, led by the bill's sponsor Rep. Shawn Mitchell agreed. A "Memorandum of Understanding" was drawn up, signed by the administrators and endorsed by both Colorado houses."

On the issue of implementation, Horowitz said: "We will be watching for the swift implementation of the principles endorsed in the American Council on Education statement as an earnest of good faith.

On the issue of further steps, Horowitz said: "We would like to see the points in this statement that apply to students, in particular, be codified as student rights; we would like to see university administrators take active steps regarding existing abuses which have been documented by Students for Academic Freedom and other campus groups. Last fall, for example, the partisan propaganda film Fahrenheit 9/11 was shown on the eve of the presidential election in a civil engineering class at Columbia University. At Skidmore College a psychology professor publicly referred to Skidmore College Republicans as "America's future Nazis." At the University of Colorado a criminology professor has given a widely publicized exam requiring students to provide specific answers to controversial questions on gay marriage and the war in Iraq in a manner that reflects his personal prejudices rather than the students' own judgment based on the evidence. These are all forms of political discrimination that we would like university authorities to look into and remedy.

Additional matters: "There are other matters dealt with in the Academic Bill of Rights, including the equitable distribution of student activities fees, which are not addressed in the American Council on Education statement. However, we are so encouraged by the good faith effort of the Council and the comprehensive embrace of the principles of academic freedom and intellectual pluralism that we look forward to working with the Council on a solution to these issues as well. Once the principles of intellectual pluralism and academic fairness are established these issues can be resolved in a matter satisfactory to all."

For further information, contact Sara Dogan, Students for Academic Freedom: 202-393-0123. sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org

David Horowitz is available for interviews. Contact Elizabeth@cspc.org; or 323-556-0550 x.202.

 

 

NEWS RELEASE:

The American Council on Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Tim McDonough, (202) 939-9365

Paul F. Hassen, (202) 939-9367

STATEMENT ON ACADEMIC RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OFFERED BY HIGHER EDUCATION COMMUNITY

Washington, DC (June 23, 2005) ¨C The American Council on Education (ACE) and 22 other higher education organizations today released a statement on intellectual diversity on college and university campuses, titled: Academic Rights and Responsibilities.

The statement contains five central or overarching principles that are "widely shared within the academic community."

"During the past decade, higher education has come under increasing criticism for a lack of commitment to political and intellectual pluralism such criticism is based on information from a very few cases and ignores our general practices," said David Ward, president of ACE. "On behalf of today's campuses public and private, two year, four year, faith-based, and non-sectarian we are releasing a statement of principles upon which academic rights and responsibilities are based on. We believe this construct will clearly outline higher education's position in future discussions on this topic."

Among the key points in the statement are the following overarching principles:

  • American higher education is characterized by a great diversity of institutions, each with its own mission and purpose. This diversity is a central feature and strength of our colleges and universities and must be valued and protected. The particular purpose of each school, as defined by the institution itself, should set the tone for the academic activities undertaken on campus.
  • Colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas. Such a commitment will inevitably encourage debate over complex and difficult issues about which individuals will disagree. Such discussions should be held in an environment characterized by openness, tolerance and civility.
  • Academic decisions including grades should be based solely on considerations that are intellectually relevant to the subject matter under consideration. Neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on the basis of their political opinions. Any member of the campus community who believes that he or she has been treated unfairly on academic matters must have access to a clear institutional process by which his or her grievance can be addressed.
  • The validity of academic ideas, theories, arguments and views should be measured against the intellectual standards of relevant academic and professional disciplines. Application of these intellectual standards does not mean that all ideas have equal merit. The responsibility to judge the merits of competing academic ideas rests with colleges and universities and is determined by reference to the standards of the academic profession as established by the community of scholars at each institution.
  • Government's recognition and respect for the independence of colleges and universities is essential for academic and intellectual excellence. Because government gives great discretion and autonomy to campus officials, colleges and universities have a particular obligation to ensure that academic freedom is protected for all members of the campus community and that academic decisions are based on intellectual standards consistent with the mission of each institution.

"We hope this statement will be seen as a resource for opinion leaders and policymakers in Congress and in state capitols, as well as for college and university presidents across the nation," Ward added.

In addition to ACE, the organizations endorsing this statement include:

  • American Association of Community Colleges
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • American Association of University Professors
  • American Dental Education Association
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities
  • Association of American Universities
  • Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
  • Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
  • College Student Educators International
  • College and University Professional Association for Human Resources
  • Council for Advancement and Support of Education
  • Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation
  • Council for Opportunity in Education
  • Council of Graduate Schools
  • Council of Independent Colleges
  • EDUCAUSE
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
  • National Association of Student Personnel Administrators
  • The Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers
  • University Continuing Education Association

Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. It seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives.


David Horowitz is the author of numerous books including an autobiography, Radical Son, which has been described as "the first great autobiography of his generation," and which chronicles his odyssey from radical activism to the current positions he holds. Among his other books are The Politics of Bad Faith and The Art of Political War. The Art of Political War was described by White House political strategist Karl Rove as "the perfect guide to winning on the political battlefield." Horowitz's latest book, Uncivil Wars, was published in January this year, and chronicles his crusade against intolerance and racial McCarthyism on college campuses last spring. Click here to read more about David