March 22, 2006
Contact: Elizabeth Ruiz
800-752-6562, ext. 202
“Free Exchange on Campus” Coalition Aims to Silence Dialogue on Academic Freedom
It has come to our attention that a new petition opposing the Academic Bill of Rights and the Academic Freedom Campaign is being circulated at Pennsylvania’s public colleges and universities by a radical coalition calling itself “Free Exchange on Campus.” The purpose of this campaign seems to be to shut down free speech, namely the discussion of academic freedom by Democrat and Republican members of the Pennsylvania House Committee Academic freedom and the educators and citizens who have been invited to air their opinions before it.
The petition claims to support the “free exchange of ideas” but its authors are organizing a demonstration to oppose the discussion of the state of academic freedom. The petition itself describes the Academic Bill of Rights as an “Academic Bill of Restrictions.” There are no restrictions in the Academic Bill of Rights on free speech, nor does the petition identify a single statement or clause in the Academic Bill of Rights that could be so described.
The petition is an attempt by radicals who want to use classrooms for their political agendas to smear a bill that would restore academic principles
The Academic Bill of Rights says:
1. Students will be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.
The petition of the radical coalition called Free Exchange on Campus calls this a “restriction” on free speech. In fact, it is an attempt to prevent professors from stifling free speech by grading students on their political and religious beliefs.
The Academic Bill of Rights says:
2. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints. Academic disciplines should welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions.
The petition of the radical coalition called Free Exchange on Campus calls this a “restriction” on free speech.
The Academic Bill of Rights is based on the academic freedom philosophy of the American Association of University Professors which for nearly a century has held that in order to preserve the academic freedom of students and faculty a code of professionalism must be observed by educators. This policy, which is the policy on which the Academic Bill of Rights is based, is quoted in the official regulations of hundreds of universities across America, including Penn State, Temple University and the universities that are part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The Academic Bill of Rights is a codification of this policy and explicitly recognizes what are now described to be faculty responsibilities as student rights.
The petition by the radical Free Exchange on Campus coalition claims that the Academic Bill of Rights is “a politically motivated attempt to silence debate and remove politics from the classroom.” This sentence actually doesn’t make sense. It contradicts itself. If the Academic Bill of Rights is politically motivated, why is it seeking “to remove politics from the classroom” as the petition says? In fact the Academic Bill of Rights is seeking to restore educational values to the classroom, which political activists have attempted to use as a political soapbox.
The Academic Bill of Rights supports the discussion of political subjects in classrooms where political subjects are appropriate. It says that there should be more than one side when any subject, political or otherwise, is discussed. The petition by the radical Free Exchange on Campus coalition calls this a “restriction.”
-David Horowitz, author Academic Bill of Rights
-Sara Dogan, National Campus Director, Students for Academic Freedom
Petition Circulated by “Free Exchange on Campus”:
Statement in Support of the Free Exchange of Ideas on Campus
There is nothing more essential to the learning environment, indeed to the academic enterprise as a whole, than the free exchange of ideas between faculty and students. It’s this freedom that sponsors new ideas, fosters debate and exposes students to frames and theories they have never encountered. Students deserve a higher education that challenges them and gives the freedom to say, think and debate anything and everything.
Unfortunately, opponents of this mission like David Horowitz are pushing proposals that would restrict on-campus debate and the free exchange of ideas by placing content-based restrictions on what is taught in the college classroom. They would rather that new ideas not challenge the status quo. And they desire a classroom where students are not challenged to explore ideas and theories with which they may be unfamiliar or even disagree.
Their proposal, the Academic Bill of Restrictions, seeks to remove from universities the thing that makes them so successful, the free exchange of ideas. It’s a politically motivated attempt to silence debate and remove politics from the classroom. It’s about sacrificing education in favor of political sensitivity. We hope that the authors of this proposal will realize that there is much more to fear by the possibility of chilling the free exchange of ideas in college than by the possibility of disagreement.
We, the undersigned, firmly support the free exchange of ideas between faculty and students on campus and oppose both administrative and legislative attempts to institute the Academic Bill of Restrictions or similar proposals.