Wednesday, April 27, 2005

More on academic freedom committee at SCSU 

As I reported yesterday, we made a committee, to which I've been elected, to study academic freedom at SCSU. I posted the blog comment to a faculty discussion list, and the only reaction I got came from Scholar Jack:

Faculty have become interested in academic freedom in the wake of David Horowitz (who I have always found an interesting guy; does anybody else on campus remember Ramparts in the 60�s?) and Ward Churchill.

But we have earned academic freedom precisely to the degree that we have created a climate of genuine freedom of thought for our students. And that climate
is measurable precisely to the degree that we have tolerated the least acceptable student beliefs, attitudes and assertions. I�m guessing, given campus philosophy and politics right now, the least acceptable student beliefs are those of conservative Christian students towards homosexuality. To the degree that we have tolerated, even respected, those students and their beliefs, and to the degree that we have worked to protect those students from the faculty who have chosen to discriminate against them, we have earned our own right to academic freedom. To claim we own a right we�ve denied to others is hypocrisy and others, such as legislators, will quickly see our claims as silly.

An example of not earning it is currently underway at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire (the Flying Pigs!), where, according to FIRE, a new policy forbids any group that supports a �particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint� from receiving student activity fee monies. Of course this results from previously having been found discriminating against a conservative paper and students wanting to use volunteering for religious groups to satisfy their community service requirement. Their understanding of "viewpoint neutrality" was to stop all funding for any group that has a viewpoint.

It's unclear if an Academic Bill of Rights would prevent a policy such as UWEC's, but obviously it should. The goal is more speech, not less.