Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I disagree with David Horowitz that the Pennsylvania hearings on academic freedom have given us anything useful. The recommendations are very mild.
  1. Public colleges and universities should review existing academic-freedom policies to ensure that students understand their rights and grievance procedures.
  2. Schools should provide information about academic-freedom policies and grievance procedures to students during orientation and make the information available in the "student" section of their Web sites.
  3. Schools should allow students to file complaints with a university official outside the student's degree program, preferably by using an existing office that handles student diversity issues.
  4. Schools should include questions related to academic freedom on anonymous course-evaluation forms.
  5. Schools should maintain records of academic-freedom complaints.
  6. Schools shall submit reports on actions taken in response to recommendations to leaders of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education no later than Nov. 1, 2008.
The irony of using a diversity office to handle academic freedom questions for students should not be lost on readers of this blog; do we really think the affirmative action officer of a campus will be up-to-date and sensitive to issues of academic freedom for students? The state universities believe they've already met most of these requirements. Interestingly, Students for Academic Freedom believes a seventh recommendation exists, namely an "Office of Academic Standards and Intellectual Diversity" to set standards and advance academic freedom. I don't see that in other news reports -- correct me please if I'm wrong -- and at any rate the recommendations have not been reported out of committee; the next meeting is scheduled for November 21. If that office is actually required on campuses, I will take back the title of this post -- I'm not sure I like the idea, but creation of those offices would be a strong statement that student academic freedom is being taken seriously.