Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Academic "Bill of Wrongs" makes a Kansas appearance

The so-called Academic Bill of Rights -- or "Bill of Wrongs" as some folks call it – has made an appearance in the Kansas House where the Appropriations Committee was scheduled to hold hearings on it today.

This seemingly mild looking proposal appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to attack some professors who hold different political views then conservative legislators. At the very least, it’s an effort by the Legislature to micro-manage universities.

Lori Messinger, assistant professor of social welfare at the University of Kansas, summarizes the proposal nicely. In a private email, she notes:
It is horrible legislation that purports to be about protecting the rights of students not to be ‘indoctrinated’ by us ‘professor-types,’ who dominate our students in class with our liberal attitudes. What it actually does is suggest that faculty cannot be trusted; that there are no standards of knowledge or values within the arts, social sciences and professional fields; that universities cannot police their own; and that we are somehow discriminating against all the conservative folks who are beating down our doors to teach.
In a March 2 editorial, the Lawrence Journal-World agues:
The concern of legislators apparently is that university faculty members are disproportionately liberal and are trying to impose liberal viewpoints on their students. However, even if that concern is a reality, trying use a resolution passed by a political body to police the situation isn’t the right strategy. Academic pursuits shouldn’t be subject to fluctuations in the political climate.

The late Franklin Murphy, a great KU chancellor, frequently said a university should be a free marketplace of ideas. Academic freedom doesn’t mean that faculty members are free to ignore opposing opinions or insist that students be indoctrinated to their point of view. It should, however, mean that faculty members are free from political retribution based on what non-academic lawmakers determine to be proper or improper course content.
The proposal in Kansas is part of a national campaign started by writer David Horowitz, who was scheduled to testify in Topeka today.

No comments: