Excerpted from the Students for Academic Freedom mission and strategy booklet by David Horowitz:
1. To Promote Intellectual Diversity
Universities are institutions of learning not platforms for political parties or intellectual sects. They exist to serve all their students, not just those who share the political or particular beliefs of their professors, especially on matters where reasonable people disagree. They are obligated to make students aware of a broad range of serious intellectual perspectives, not just the perspectives that correspond to the beliefs of their professors. This has been a hallmark view of the academic profession since its beginnings.
In 1915 the American Association of University Professors issued a landmark report on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The premise of this report was that human knowledge is a never-ending pursuit of the truth; that there is no humanly accessible truth that is not in principle open to challenge; and that no party or intellectual faction can be assumed to have a monopoly on wisdom. Therefore, learning is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech. Indeed, as John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, even truth would become dead and formal if unchallenged by criticism and debate.
Unfortunately the atmosphere that prevails on most college campuses today does not foster intellectual diversity or the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. Liberal Arts faculties at most universities are politically and philosophically one-sided, while partisan propagandizing often intrudes into classroom discourse. It is appropriate for faculty to want open-minded students in their classes, not disciples. Faculty bias is reflected in the curriculum of courses available, in the manner in which they are taught, in readings assigned for classroom study, and in discussions only open to one side of a debate.
It is the goal of Students for Academic Freedom to secure greater representation for under-represented ideas and to promote intellectual fairness and inclusion in all aspects of the curriculum, including the faculty hiring process, the spectrum of courses available, reading materials assigned, and in the decorum of the classroom and the campus public square.
2. To defend students’ right to be treated with respect by faculty and administrators, regardless of their political or religious beliefs
Professors are hired to teach all students, not just students who share their political, religious and philosophical beliefs. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that professors and lecturers not force their opinions about philosophy, politics and other contestable issues on students in the classroom and in all academic environments. This is a cardinal principle of academic freedom laid down by the American Association of University Professors.
In The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the American Association of University Professors declared: “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”
In a 1970 clarification and re-endorsement of this principle, the AAUP said: “The intent of this statement is not to discourage what is ‘controversial.’ Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry, which the entire statement is designed to foster. The passage serves to underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has no relation to their subject.” (“1970 Interpretative Comments,” endorsed by the 56th annual association meeting as association policy.)
In an academic environment professors are in a unique position of authority vis-à-vis their students. The use of academic incentives and disincentives to advance a partisan or sectarian view creates a environment of indoctrination which is unprofessional and contrary to the educational mission. It is a violation of students’ academic freedom. The creation of closed, political fiefdoms in colleges, programs or departments, is the opposite of academic freedom and is undeserving of public subsidy or private educational support.
The 1915 General Report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure clearly states that classroom indoctrination is impermissible. It admonishes faculty to avoid “taking unfair advantage of the student’s immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher’s own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters in question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness of judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own.”
In 1967, the American Association of University Professors, in conjunction with a number of other higher education organizations, issued a Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students that reinforced and amplified its stance against classroom indoctrination by affirming the inseparability of “the freedom to teach and freedom to learn.” In the words of the report, “Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion.”