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Congressman for Academic Freedom By: Melanie Eversley
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Thursday, October 23, 2003

America's colleges and universities are bastions of liberalism that too often seek to indoctrinate rather than educate, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston says.

So the Savannah, Georgia, resident, who is vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, on Tuesday announced plans to file a bill that would put Congress on record as encouraging colleges and universities to be neutral when it comes to politics.

"There's a concern that college campuses have become the great bastion of liberal indoctrination as opposed to liberal education and that the college professors are bullying kids and using their microphones, so to speak, to intimidate dissenting thought," Kingston said. "It can be religious thought or it can be political thought, but it is not welcome on college campuses today."

Kingston said students with conservative ideas are often persecuted. In some cases, student boards are declining to pay for conservative speakers to visit campuses and faculty members are giving extra credit to students who take part in liberal-slanted events, he said.

Earlier in the day, he held a press conference with several college students from around the country who support his measure.

Among them was Joe Jones, a Marietta, Georgia, native who is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jones said that last year, the UNC student organization that reviews charters told a Christian student group in which he was active that it might lose its funding because its charter requires members to be Christians. The chancellor stepped in and stopped the action, Jones said.

"I have felt in different situations that I've learned the value of freedom of thought, and I've learned diversity is important from a university standpoint, but that is not exactly the case on campuses," Jones said.

Sara Russo, national campus director for the Washington-based Students for Academic Freedom, said educators who engage in conservative thought are being denied tenure and students have had their grades reduced if they disagreed with liberal professors.

But not everyone agrees with Kingston's thinking. Kirk Miller, a national committeeman for the Young Democrats of Georgia, said that when he was a student a few years ago at the University of Georgia and president of its Young Democrats chapter, he saw diversity of thought. In fact, he said, a college Republican group boasted that it was the largest nonreligious organization on campus.

U.S. Rep. Max Burns, a Republican and former professor at Georgia Southern University, said he had not seen Kingston's bill but that diverse thought should be nurtured on campus.

"I think that it is important we have open and complete discussions," said Burns of Sylvania.

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