Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Action Alert: Support Academic Freedom in Our Universities

Well, our legislature thinks our universities, public and private, need an "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education." Hm, that doesn't sound half bad until you actually read the damn thing.

Senate Bill 24, 126th General Assembly
(A) The institution shall provide its students with a learning environment in which the students have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion pertaining to the subjects they study. In the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, the fostering of a plurality of serious scholarly methodologies and perspectives shall be a significant institutional purpose. In addition, curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social studies shall respect all human knowledge in these areas and provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints.

Hm, dissenting sources and viewpoints but only for traditional liberal arts subjects? Sounds quite fishy to me. So does this mean that anthropology professors should be required to present Intelligent Design, there's an oxymoron for you, as a dissenting viewpoint?

(B) Students shall be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study and shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs. Faculty and instructors shall not use their courses or their positions for the purpose of political, ideological, religious, or antireligious indoctrination.

I'd like to know just how many complaints have been filed in Ohio universities pertaining to belief discrimination and grading. This is completely unnecessary and specifically designed to muffle university professors, which are supposedly more progressively minded than conservatively or radical right "conservatively" minded.

(C) Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose.

No controversial material in the classroom? Who gets to decide what is controversial: the professor who is qualified to teach the subject or the legislature that probably doesn't know jackshit about said subject? Or would our legislature waste our tax dollars setting up committee boards to approve university curriculum?

Discussing controversial topics in university classrooms is intended to encourage the students to develop and refine critical thinking skills. This cannot be prohibited in our universities; children certainly do not learn to think critically in grades K-12, since they are only being taught to memorize what will be on the damn proficiency test thanks to Let No School Succeed aka No Child Left Behind, which will eventually have its own post.

(D) University administrators, student government organizations, and institutional policies, rules, or procedures shall not infringe the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience of students and student organizations.

And this has happened in what Ohio universities in recent memory? Again completely unnecessary.

(E) The institution shall distribute student fee funds on a viewpoint-neutral basis and shall maintain a posture of neutrality with respect to substantive political and religious disagreements, differences, and opinions. The selection of speakers, allocation of funds for speakers' programs, and other student activities shall observe the principles of academic freedom and promote the presentation of a diversity of opinions on intellectual matters. Except as provided by law, the institution shall not permit the obstruction of invited campus speakers, the destruction of campus literature, or other efforts to obstruct a civil exchange of ideas.

So does the legislature intend to audit the balance sheet for all Ohio universities in an effort to enforce this? Like that'll work; why not just flush our tax dollars down the toilet? And what universities currently permit the type of civil disobedience listed?

(F) Faculty and instructors shall be free to pursue and discuss their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, but they shall make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own through classroom discussion or dissemination of written materials, and they shall encourage intellectual honesty, civil debate, and the critical analysis of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.

I am really beginning to wonder if anyone involved in crafting this bill even went to college. Seriously, how many professors actually encourage intellectual dishonesty, stifle civil debate, or don't promote critical analysis? Guess what Ohio legislature, OL; universities all ready have procedures in place that address this, and they sure as hell don't need this from you.

(G) Faculty and instructors shall be hired, fired, promoted, and granted tenure on the basis of their competence and appropriate knowledge in their field of expertise and shall not be hired, fired, promoted, granted tenure, or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs.

You know, I seem to recall an entire branch of government that handles this; oh yeah, it's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission!!!

(H) Faculty and instructors shall not be excluded from tenure, search, and hiring committees on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs.

And where are the stats that this actually happens? Bueller... Bueller.... Here's an idea; how about not excluding women from tenure because they have decide to have children!!!

(I) The institution and its professional societies shall maintain a posture of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive disagreements that divide researchers on questions within, or outside, their fields of inquiry recognizing that:

(1) Knowledge advances when individual scholars are left free to reach their own conclusions about which methods, facts, and theories have been validated by research;

(2) Academic institutions and professional societies formed to advance knowledge within an area of research, maintain the integrity of the research process, and organize the professional lives of related researchers serve as indispensable venues within which scholars circulate research findings and debate their interpretations.

Last time I checked institutions all ready maintain neutrality. As for professional societies, it is my understanding that professional societies are usually chapters of larger professional societies; therefore, they can take positions on pertinent research based on the views of their members, as long as the parent society does not object.

Ha, (1) is rich; this whole damned bill is designed to restrict scholars from freely reaching their own conclusions without unnecessary intervention from the state. And (2) is a great big no shit sherlock; how about withdrawing this ridiculous waste of tax money and do something productive, like finding a way to save Medicare from the chopping block?

Sign the petition under Ohio Action Alerts, forward to your friends, and contact your local reps; if you don't know who to contact, look under Find Your Elected Officials, and be sure to be polite when composing your letters.

-The Ticked Off Ohioan


Blogger Tina said...

I couldn't agree more w/you about the insanity of censoring academia. But just read Dr. Faustus to remember how "dangerous" knowledge is to conservatives. I, too, am an Ohioian, and I too, just launched my blog to rant about the insane state of affairs in our nation. Please feel free to visit me at Fuzzy and Blue anytime, and I will make a point to visit you, also.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Good on you for covering the Ohio General Assembly. I produce a Statehouse Report on my blog, Walk In Brain, but lately my output has been as regular as a spastic colon, and I haven't commented on anything other than SB 9 and SB 24 lately.

Keep fighting the good fights!


3:23 PM  
Blogger The Ticked Off Ohioan said...

Wow, thanks for visiting guys :o) You've motived me to get my ass in gear and post some stuff.

4:14 PM  

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