In a case that epitomizes the need for greater academic freedom protections on America’s campuses, a student at Kansas Wesleyan University was charged with violating the University’s honor code for introducing a version of the Academic Bill of Rights in his student government without citing the source of the bill. The plagiarism charge was dropped after Students for Academic Freedom launched a direct protest to campus administrators, but additional charges which violate the student’s right to free speech remain.
Rodney Wren is a junior at Kansas Wesleyan University and the head of the campus chapter of Students for Academic Freedom. He also serves as the chairman of the campus College Republicans and as vice president of KWU’s Student Government Association.
The trouble began when Rodney introduced a version of the Academic Bill of Rights last semester. The bill failed by one vote because of absent members. He planned to reintroduce the bill this spring, but before he could do so he was charged with violating the university’s honor code by plagiarizing text from the Academic Bill of Rights.
Wren also faces additional disciplinary charges for posting a flyer questioning whether “Student Government is a Joke?” and for creating a private Facebook online group questioning the capabilities of the organization’s current leadership. The administration claims that such comments violate KWU’s honor code.
In a letter sent to Kansas Wesleyan’s Dean of Student Life Heather Smith, SAF defended Rodney and criticized the University for bringing charges against him. “Students on dozens of campuses across the nation have introduced versions of these bills in their student governments, as have elected officials in over 20 states and the federal government,” SAF’s letter states. “If the United States Congress and Senate did not see a need to cite Students for Academic Freedom when introducing bills containing the text of the Academic Bill of Rights, then surely Rodney can be excused for not doing so.”
Following the receipt of SAF’s letter, Dean Smith responded with a telephone call to Students for Academic Freedom Campus Director Sara Dogan, noting that the disciplinary charges related to plagiarizing the Academic Bill of Rights would be dropped. She asserted that the remaining disciplinary charges against Wren would still be considered at a hearing.
“Thanks to the efforts of Students for Academic Freedom, the preposterous plagiarism charges against myself have been dropped, but there is still an effort to prohibit my freedom of speech when it comes to criticizing aspects of campus life,” commented Wren. “This shows the need for an Academic Bill of Rights on campus.”
“These charges are absurd and constitute political harassment of Rodney Wren, which has been explicitly condemned by the American Council on Education and the American Association of University Professors,” said SAF Chairman David Horowitz. “KWU did the right thing by dropping the plagiarism charges and they should drop these additional charges immediately.”
Students for Academic Freedom is a national initiative dedicated to restoring academic diversity and educational values to America’s institutions of higher learning. The organization recommends that colleges and universities adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to ensure that these principles are respected. The Academic Bill of Rights is available on the organization’s website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.
Contact: Sara Dogan
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