The second-largest Sunday night crowd of the semester went to the Hoff Theater to see the Student Entertainment Events-sponsored showing of Bowling for Columbine Nov. 23. The crowd was unusually large because some teachers encouraged students to see the movie, a SEE official said.
In the documentary-style film, writer and director Michael Moore explores American gun culture while providing his own personal commentary, alternating between tones of levity and poignancy.
Under an "Academic Bill of Rights" sponsored by 18 Republican congressmen, the teachers who told their students to watch Bowling for Columbine could have been required to also teach a point of view opposite to Moore's.
The bill of rights aims to protect the "intellectual diversity" and "academic freedom" of students and faculty. The current draft of the Congressional resolution proposes a 13-point bill of rights that would not allow political, ideological and religious or anti-religious beliefs to be the basis for students' grades or faculty hirings, firings, promotions and granting of tenure, among other things.
If Congress passes the resolution, it would not mandate that colleges and universities adopt the academic bill of rights. Resolutions are formal expressions of Congress's opinion that have no binding legal power.
A survey of 32 colleges and universities by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture - a think-tank committed to "defending the cultural foundations of a free society," according to its website - showed the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among tenure and tenure-track faculty was 10-to-1.
However, an October poll conducted by Harvard University's Institute of Politics showed 31 percent of college students nationwide identify themselves as Republicans, 27 percent as Democrats and 38 percent as Independent or unaffiliated. Four percent did not identify their political affiliation.
University government and politics professor Mark Graber criticized the bill.
"It's a collection of cliches no one could dispute," he said in an e-mail. "For every opinion there are infinite opposing sides."
Various university policies already reflect some of the principles of the proposed bill of rights, though not explicitly.
Students have the right to freely express their opinions, and "no student shall be prevented from exercising his or her right of self-expression," according to the university's Declaration of Students' Rights.
Promotion, tenure and emeritus "review committees and administrators at all levels shall ... ensure that all candidates receive fair and impartial treatment," according to the university's Policies and Procedures Manual.
Stuart McPhail, co-president of the university's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "The purpose of our university is to present ideas and debate them and to progress towards enlightenment."
The proposed bill of rights "would be very helpful to students who could use this principle to further their claims for free speech, free religion, free press, association and inquiry," he said in an e-mail.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) introduced the bill in October. Kingston said in a statement that the bill of rights would ensure students "get an education rather than an indoctrination" and protect "anyone else who does not sing from the same liberal songbook."
"These institutions constantly preach the value of diversity in their student body and faculty. This bill only seeks to promote the most important diversity of all - the diversity of ideas," Kingston said in a press release.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Work Force at the end of October, but has not been scheduled for further debate.