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Temple Looks Right on Academic Rights By: Valerie Richardson
Washington Times | Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Temple University responded to complaints about left-wing bias by beefing up its academic-rights policy, handing the academic-freedom movement the biggest victory of its three-year history.

The school's Board of Trustees adopted Thursday a three-page document titled "Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities," which includes provisions protecting students from ideological discrimination and outlining grievance procedures against faculty bias.

David Horowitz, the conservative writer spearheading the academic-freedom movement, applauded the board, saying the decision makes Temple, in Philadelphia, the first university to "address student rights and not just faculty privilege."

"I'm thrilled with this," said Mr. Horowitz, adding that the policy reflects the recommendations of his Academic Bill of Rights proposal. "What the Temple policy does is put students into the equation for the first time."

He predicted that other universities would follow before the end of the year.

"This will make it easier for other universities to adopt similar policies," he said.

Critics said the policy change hardly merits such hoopla. William Cutler, a Temple professor of history and educational policy studies, said that although he hadn't had a chance to compare the old and revised policies, the new version appeared to differ little from current policy.

"The revised version is pretty much a straightforward call for faculty and students to respect well-argued views and the principles and standards of academic discourse," Mr. Cutler said. "That's always been the case at Temple."

Mr. Cutler was among those who testified before a state legislative committee on academic bias at Pennsylvania state universities. The committee, which held a series of hearings from January to May, is expected to release a report of its findings this fall.

At the Temple hearings in January, Marlene Kowal, president of the campus chapter of Students for Academic Freedom, cited examples of professors praising communist leaders such as Mao Zedong and Che Guevara while criticizing the Bush administration.

"The radical left is dominating our universities. If we allow this trend to continue, they will indoctrinate our youth," Miss Kowal said.

But Mr. Cutler disagreed, saying the hearings showed no proven evidence of ideological bias."I heard every word at those hearings, and it was demonstrated pretty conclusively that there was no academic bias problem at Temple," he said.

Jaime Horwitz, spokesman for Free Exchange on Campus, argued that, contrary to Mr. Horowitz's assertions, the Temple policy did little more than incorporate some of Mr. Horowitz's language.

Mr. Horwitz's organization has fought state legislation aimed at establishing academic-freedom policies at universities. About 25 states have introduced resolutions and bills aimed at curtailing academic bias, although no bill has passed.

"This isn't the same as passing a law, and it's certainly nothing new that universities have laws protecting students," Mr. Horwitz said.

Mr. Horowitz countered by pointing out several key distinctions: The new policy outlines a specific grievance procedure for students that requires violations to be submitted each semester to the Board of Trustees.

In addition, the policy, which takes effect Aug. 1, will be included for the first time in the university catalog and on the university Web site, said Mr. Horowitz, who has long argued that many students are unaware of their rights regarding faculty.

"One thing that we highlighted [at the hearings] is that these policies often exist, but they don't really recognize students; the students don't really know what they are," Mr. Horowitz said.

State Sen. Gibson C. Armstrong, the Pennsylvania Republican who chaired the hearings, praised Temple for its decision.

"I think it's a great step forward for students' rights and something that will help ensure diversity on campus."

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