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University of Colorado Adopts Policy Protecting Students’ Academic Freedom By: Sara Dogan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 03, 2008

The University of Colorado, until recently the academic home of infamous professor Ward Churchill, last month adopted the American Council on Education’s statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities. This document was adopted as direct response to the Academic Bill of Rights which it echoes in specifically protecting the rights of students not to be indoctrinated by their professors and granting them access to grievance procedures to protest classroom mistreatment.

The American Council on Education (ACE) represents more than 1,600 college and university presidents and more than 200 related associations in the United States. Twenty-seven separate educational organizations, including the American Association of University Professors, signed on to the Statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities when it was first adopted in June, 2005.

Among the principles recognized by the ACE statement are that “intellectual pluralism and academic freedom are central principles of American higher education” and “neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on the basis of their political opinions.” The statement even endorses one of the proposals most frequently criticized by opponents of the academic freedom effort: that students and faculty members whose academic freedom has been violated must have access to redress through official and well-publicized grievance procedures on campus.

In an article posted on the ACE website, former State University of New York at Albany president Kermit Hall credits David Horowitz and Students for Academic Freedom with ACE’s proposal and adoption of the statement on student rights in the first place. “The statement was a pragmatic response by the higher education establishment to the escalating challenge posed by its neo-conservative critics in general and their most ardent advocate, David Horowitz, in particular,” Hall writes.

Despite the clearly nonpolitical language of the ACE statement and its previous endorsement by dozens of educational associations, some CU faculty objected to the statement on the grounds that its proposal was due to external political influences and represented a capitulation to David Horowitz and the academic freedom campaign—-a charge that has been levied at the Academic Bill of Rights and legislation and policies inspired by it since its inception.

“The Colorado regents’ endorsement of the ACE statement is a clear step forward for academic freedom from a campus that in the wake of the Ward Churchill scandal desperately needs to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom, intellectual diversity, and academic integrity,” commented David Horowitz, president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. “The faculty apprehension over this statement’s adoption is misplaced. The regents have merely done what they should have done a long time ago—-make sure that students’ academic rights are protected on the CU campuses. If external forces such as my academic freedom campaign have encouraged this result, it is only because universities have previously failed to take up the mantle themselves.”

Sara Dogan is National Campus Director of Students for Academic Freedom.

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