American Council on Education Press Release · 22 June 2005


The American Council on Education


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

Paul F. Hassen, (202) 939-9367



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
  • 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.