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High Noon at the College of DuPage By: Sara Dogan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 23, 2009

In what may be a landmark battle currently playing out at a large Midwestern community college, the school’s faculty association has pitted itself against the board of trustees over whether to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights to protect the academic freedom of its students. This latest skirmish in the five-year war over David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights reveals the lengths to which faculty unions are prepared to go to deny college students the right to an education free from indoctrination.

The College of DuPage located in Illinois may soon by the nation’s first campus to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights and only the third to explicitly recognize students’ academic freedom rights. But not if the school’s faculty union has anything to say about it.

The Academic Bill of Rights proposed at DuPage echoes the language of the original Bill authored by David Horowitz. It recognizes that the principle of academic freedom applies not only to faculty but also to students who should be protected “from the imposition of any orthodoxy of a political, religious or ideological nature.” The DuPage bill acknowledges the right of faculty members to “pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views” but states that they should “consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints” and that “Courses will not be used for the purpose of political, ideological, religious, or anti-religious indoctrination.”

Despite the obvious fairness and inclusive attitude of the Bill, DuPage faculty are livid and have declared open war over the proposed policy change. The DuPage Faculty Association is a unit of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teacher’s union. In a letter to the Board of Trustees, the Association claims, “ABOR supporters apparently hope that the bill will give elected officials the power to dictate, for example, whether creationism should be taught alongside evolution in college biology…. it is the responsibility of college professors, who are trained experts in their fields, to evaluate that evidence. It’s not the job of politicians.”

The Academic Bill of Rights makes no mention of elected officials and its tenets do not require that all viewpoints be represented. The ABOR further stipulates that only scholarly viewpoints need be considered at all.

These are the same tired and baseless objections we’ve heard again and again from the teacher’s unions and the academic Left. Neither the DuPage bill nor the original bill propose that politicians be given the power to decide what goes on in the classroom. The fact that it is trustees of the university not legislators who are proposing a change in university regulations underscores the absurdity and hysteria of the faculty response.

Moreover, the Academic Bill of Rights proposed at DuPage states that “Exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty.” Creationism is not a scholarly viewpoint and it should not be taught in a science class. This argument is simply a red herring and the public should not take the bait.

Ironically, the faculty union contract at DuPage, signed by the DuPage Faculty Association, contains an academic freedom provision that is strikingly similar to the Academic Bill of Rights. Section C-2 of the contract on Academic Freedom states that

“Faculty Members shall be free to present instructional materials which are pertinent to the subject and level taught and shall be expected to present facets of controversial issues in an unbiased manner” (emphasis added).

This clause echoes almost exactly the language of the Academic Bill of Rights which the DuPage Faculty Association finds so objectionable. The difference is that the faculty union contract does not apply to students. If professors ignore its provisions (which students would hardly be familiar with in any case) students would have no right to complain. The new policy would close that loophole.

“Really the only thing that a student can challenge under the current policy,” explains DuPage Board of Trustees member Kory Atkinson, “is a grade. Creating a specific right for a student to challenge ideological discrimination really worries them. They will have to be accountable for what they’re doing in the classroom and they really don’t like that.”

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

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