Academic Freedom News · 31 August 2004

August 31, 2004

With the beginning of the new school year, Students for Academic Freedom is poised to make a significant impact on the landscape of America's universities and state policies on education.

On the Campus…

As students return to their dorms and apartments and get ready for another school year battling for grades and respect for your views in the classroom, Students for Academic Freedom is pleased to announce that it has spent the summer battling to bring intellectual diversity into campus lecture halls. For years, universities have fought for diversity of skin color, gender and other characteristics. Yet absent from their diversity policies is any commitment to diversity of thought. This lack is reflected in an absence of tolerance for anyone who challenges the prevailing political and intellectual climate on campus. We have heard from students across the nation that if they dare have the audacity to suggest that a professor may be incorrect or should welcome another viewpoint to a discussion, they will be ridiculed, mocked, ignored, called ignorant, and flunked. Professors claim, "This is a place of learning and I am the ultimate authority! There is no room for discussion, I the professor have rights and the academic freedom to say and do as I please, you the student, sit down and shut up, unless you agree with me".

So we, at Students for Academic Freedom, have asked university presidents to take explicit steps to protect "intellectual, political, and religious diversity." By protecting diversity of thought, the scope of the ideas and insights offered in the classroom will expand, thereby brining true diversity to the classroom. Below is the language we have been asking schools to embrace. Our hope is that students, parents and alumni will take the same language to the office of diversity at their university, high school or alma mater, (virtually every campus has such an office) and request they adopt this language:

"This office was established with the premise that expanding diversity within the university enhances the educational experience and furthers the understanding of the entire scholarly community. An atmosphere of civility and mutual respect towards difference is indispensable to the educational process and enables the free interchange of ideas that is the basis of scholarship. These differences may be immutable or changeable, cultural, ethnic, religious, intellectual, ideological or political. Each of these qualities is integral to the identity we form as individuals, and all are essential to creating a vibrant university community composed of individuals with unique perspectives and backgrounds. The university must commit itself to a policy of inclusion, respect for difference, and fairness, and guarantee the same rights and freedoms to all its members to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom."

The Election…

Everyone knows that this is one of the most important elections in our nation's history. We at Students for Academic Freedom are aware that most of the students involved in our movement are also politically active. Since this election has become so contentious, we are asking our student representatives to be extra vigilant during the fall semester. We are already hearing complaints about university administrations and professors making explicit political statements and indoctrinating students in the classroom.

It is unprofessional and immoral for a professor to deliver a political tirade to the students under his charge or to demonize any candidate or viewpoint. This is unacceptable in the classroom from either side of the political spectrum. We ask that any student who has witnessed such behavior to report this abuse of power to us so that we can make the university aware of these violations of academic freedom. This is the only way we can change the pattern of abuse in the classroom, by making administrators aware of their hypocrisy in claiming to uphold the ideals of academic freedom while ignoring specific incidents occurring under their watch. It is the responsibility of all of us to hold campus administrators to the high standards of academic freedom.

To keep up date on all academic freedom news and issues visit our website:

Yours in the struggle,

Bradley Shipp

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