Thursday, June 23, 2005

Getting religion -- a victory for academic freedom 

My whole argument about the Academic Bill of Rights has been that it's never been about passing a law but about getting higher education institutions to value intellectual diversity. This is what happened in Colorado, and it's what you'd hope for everywhere else.

A first step seems to have been taken. The American Council on Education, the largest of the organizations representing higher education, along with 25 other such organizations, issued a supporting statement today. It asserts five principles, including this:
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.
The language is loose elsewhere, allowing for individual institutions to define academic freedom and intellectual diversity based on their own institutional missions. For private institutions this seems quite right. My one concern from the statement is that it does not make a stronger statement about intellectual diversity for public institutions, at which I believe the arguments for intellectual diversity are stronger than, say, a church-run college.

David Horowitz calls it "a major victory". Well, the devil is always in the details, but undoubtedly this is a large step forward.