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Academic Freedom Coming to University of Wisconsin-Superior By: Jonathan Mencel
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 01, 2004


The Students for Academic Freedom is making inroads at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Soon the Law School should be adopting the Legal Studies Code of Ethics, based on the core principles of the Academic Bill of Rights.
 
Early last year (Fall 2003), I was in my Constitutional Law class. We were discussing the Second Amendment and the case precedent to that Amendment.  I laid down an argument that the Second Amendment contained in it two specific rights:  that of the state to have a militia, and that of the individual to have the right to bear arms.  This was mocked by the professor in the class, who instead of responding to the actual argument with a counter-argument, stated, "What do you think about this opinion?...(pause)...You know that there are actually people who think this way."  This was followed by laughter from the professor. Afterwards, I wrote in my journal for another professor, Dr. Maria Cuzzo, that I and my argument deserved respectful debate and examination.
 
I was approached in class by Dr. Cuzzo.  She was very concerned with what had happened and inquired about who the professor was.  She told me not to stop doing what I do, because it was good for the class to hear a different opinion, one that doesn't get heard all that much in the universities.  When she handed back the journal entry, she wrote, "This was a revelatory experience for you--causing you pain and growth.  Do not allow it to stifle your beautiful and powerful trajectory of academic and personal growth."  Had this professor not handled it the way she did, I would not be where I am today.  I would not be able to speak in the classes.

This is when we decided to form a chapter of Students for Academic Freedom here.  Dr. Cuzzo was very supportive of this.
 
About two weeks later, Dr. Cuzzo asked a class of hers, in which I was one of the students, what we thought of creating a Legal Studies Code of Ethics.  As I remember it, it was originally only to address the concerns student expectations in the class.  It was propelled after Dr. Cuzzo found that some of the students were being academically dishonest on one of the final assignments.
 
When we decided to go through with a Legal Studies Code of Ethics, I immediately suggested incorporating core principles of the Students Academic Bill of Rights.  I argued that there were many classes in which opinions and debate were frequent in the law, and that people should be able to feel comfortable offering their opinions without the fear of being attacked personally or mocked by professors.  I used that personal experience to further my point, which did not meet any resistance.
 
I was selected to be Chair of the Legal Studies Code of Ethics Task Force. The Legal Studies Code of Ethics, which we began drafting last spring. Our committee has stressed the need for a responsible work load and an environment conducive to the exchange of free thoughts without the fear of being attacked personally by other professors and students.
 
So far, the principles that we have adopted are from the Student Bill of Rights with slight modifications.  The task force will resume in the fall and finish it hopefully by the end of next semester. The Code of Ethics has yet to be approved by Dr. Cuzzo, but she has told the task force that she likes what she has seen so far.
 
This is not the only front on which progress is being made at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.  Last year, if you remember, I was appointed to the Students Affairs Committee.  I began to fight for adoption of the Student Bill of Rights.  Last spring, in an unsuccessful bid for Student Senate, I was able to make a Students Bill of Rights one of the issues to which both presidential candidates are open.  Many senators are as well.  I will be appointing SAF chapter President Eric Lindell to the Student Affairs Committee to finish the work where I left off. 
 
I am not sure if anything will be acted upon this semester, but am confident that the Student Bill of Rights will be discussed at length during the course of the next academic year.

Jonathan Mencel is Vice President of the University of Wisconsin-Superior Students for Academic Freedom, Vice President of the UWS College Republicans, President of the UWS Amateur Radio Club, President of the Pre-Law Society and Vice Director of Shared Governance.


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