Key House Republicans Welcome Consensus Agreement on 'Academic Bill of Rights' · 23 June 2005

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Key House Republicans Welcome Consensus Agreement on 'Academic Bill of Rights'

Members Applaud Higher Education Community for Reaching Agreement to Protect Student Rights on College Campuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Key House Republican leaders today welcomed news that a compromise has been reached between representatives of the higher education community and leading voices in the drive for freedom of speech, led by David Horowitz, who have been calling for enactment of an Academic Bill of Rights to protect students' rights on college campuses. Republicans have long argued that students should not be discriminated against, whether in classes or campus activities, based upon political or ideological viewpoints.

"College campuses are a place for discussion and debate, a place where students of all philosophies and ideologies should be able to express their views and opinions and learn from one another openly and without fear of discrimination," said Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee.

Boehner joined with Reps. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) and Jack Kingston
(R-GA) to develop stronger protections for student speech and association rights under the federal Higher Education Act. The safeguards were crafted in cooperation with leaders of higher education associations who agreed on the need to outline student rights and protections. The consensus language will be included when the Education and the Workforce Committee takes up legislation later this summer to reauthorize federal higher education programs.

"All too often, college students with dissenting political views are finding themselves being treated unfairly in the classroom," said Rep. McKeon. "With today's announcement, we are sending out a clear signal that discrimination based on political beliefs will not be tolerated on college campuses. This is a victory for students of all political stripes. I am pleased the higher education community worked with House Republican leaders on the Education and the Workforce Committee to deliver this agreement to college students around America."

"I'm pleased to join my colleagues on the House Education and Workforce Committee and in the higher education community in announcing a compromise on this important piece of legislation. Chairman Boehner and Subcommittee Chairman McKeon have once again provided tremendous leadership in matters important to the higher education community," Kingston said. "This legislation will help take politics out of the university curriculum, and will help ensure that students receive an education and not an indoctrination."

The stronger protections strike an appropriate balance between ensuring students are not discriminated against because of their political or ideological perspectives, while also protecting the fundamental rights of institutions to maintain their unique character and identity. The protections ensure the federal government will not influence the curriculum or content being taught in colleges and universities, and protect the right of institutions, like faith-based institutions, to maintain their character and mission. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities was instrumental in ensuring the final agreement protects both student rights and institutional autonomy.

"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 toward a non-partisan solution that will protect the university as an institution," said Horowitz. "I want to thank the education leadership of Chairmen Boehner and McKeon, and also the stalwart sponsor of the Academic Bill of Rights, Rep. Jack Kingston. Today's statement by the academic community is in no small part a reaction to their principled calls for intellectual pluralism."

Horowitz is the author of the Academic Bill of Rights, a series of principles designed to protect student rights and foster intellectual pluralism on college campuses. Several states as well as colleges and universities and student governments have paid increased attention to the concept of an Academic Bill of Rights or some variation that would more clearly outline protections for students that promote the free exchange of ideas and the discussion of multiple viewpoints and perspectives.

Through renewal of the Higher Education Act, Congress will echo many of the principles of Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights, as well as the higher education community's statement on academic rights and responsibilities.
Together, these efforts signify the importance of protecting student speech and association rights, defending academic freedom, and fostering intellectual pluralism.

"I applaud the higher education community for coming to the table and working with us to forge stronger protections for students on college campuses," Boehner said. "I'm encouraged by the cooperation and openness that led to this agreement, and I'm eager to move forward in that spirit with renewal of the federal higher education programs."