Another victorious chapter has been added to the storied history of the Academic Bill of Rights. After a historic and unanimous vote from its Board of Trustees on April 16, the College of DuPage, a large community college in Illinois, became the first campus in the nation to adopt David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights as official school policy.
The unanimous vote of the trustees (6-0 with one member absent) puts the final seal of approval on what has been a long and arduous process of adopting the Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) as campus policy.
Taken explicitly from the academic freedom guidelines written by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) over the past century, the Academic Bill of Rights guarantees the rights of both faculty and students to academic freedom regardless of their political or religious views. It prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing and promotion of faculty based on political or religious beliefs and forbids faculty from abusing their positions for the purposes of “political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination” in the classroom.
Ever since its introduction in 2003, the Academic Bill of Rights has been met with ill-reasoned opposition and vitriolic attacks from the national teachers unions and left-leaning academic institutions. Over the ensuing half-decade, the Bill has become a convenient target and rallying point for the campus left and the national academic interests just as it has become a symbol of these organizations’ failure to protect students’ basic rights among fair-minded academics and conservative college students.
The onslaught resulting from the Bill’s introduction at the College of DuPage proved a case in point. When the news broke last fall that the DuPage trustees were considering including the Academic Bill of Rights in DuPage’s policy manual, the DuPage Faculty Association (a unit of the National Education Association) launched a hysterical misinformation campaign in an attempt to derail the bill, claiming that it would “give elected officials the power to dictate what theories, data and critical interpretations would be allowed in a classroom”—an absurd charge given that it was the university’s own trustees who initiated these reforms.
The Faculty Association was quickly joined in these attacks by the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors whose President Robert Kendall issued a statement claiming that the proposed policy manual including the policies inspired by the Academic Bill of Rights “represents an extraordinary attack on academic freedom, shared governance, and intellectual liberty” and vilifying Academic Bill of Rights author David Horowitz as a “controversial polemicist.”
The Illinois Community College Faculty Association also got in on the act, releasing an error-laden letter from its President Kathleen Westman, criticizing the proposed DuPage policies for not encompassing more of the language of the AAUP’s 1940 statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure and its Joint Statement on the Rights and Freedom of Students –an ironic charge given that the text of the Academic Bill of Rights was explicitly taken from these statements and others issued by the AAUP.
The trustees initially offered a compromise to the faculty by removing much of the language from the original Academic Bill of Rights from the proposed policy manual changes, yet these concessions only emboldened the Bill’s opponents and ironically weakened not only the guarantees of students’ academic freedom promised by the policy manual but those promised to faculty as well. The Faculty Association and other academic organizations continued their attacks, claiming that the proposed policy changes were unconstitutional and would violate faculty's academic freedom.
As a result, the DuPage Board of Trustees approved the majority of the policy manual in March but postponed a vote on ten policies singled out by the faculty and the AAUP as potentially unconstitutional, including those provisions inspired by the Academic Bill of Rights. After receiving confirmation from the College’s legal counsel of the constitutionality of the Academic Bill of Rights provisions, DuPage President Robert Breuder restored the language from the Academic Bill of Rights to the proposed policy manual, allowing the historic vote of the trustees to proceed last Thursday.
DuPage is now the first campus in the nation to have adopted the actual text of the Academic Bill of Rights and only the third campus to recognize student-specific academic freedom protections. Pennsylvania State University and Temple University both previously adopted student-specific academic freedom protections when it was proven through a series of state legislative hearings that not a single public university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had academic freedom provisions that applied to students.
“The adoption of the Academic Bill of Rights as official college policy demonstrates the commitment the College of DuPage has for the academic freedom of its students,” said DuPage Trustee Kory Atkinson. “The College exists for the betterment of its students and our students now have the explicit assurances of academic freedom that they are paying for and that they need to flourish.”
“This is truly a historic day in the annals of our battle for academic freedom,” commented David Horowitz, author of the Academic Bill of Rights. “Students at DuPage now join the tiny minority of college students in America who have been granted full academic freedom protections.”
While this landmark vote by the DuPage trustees sets a new standard in the battle for academic freedom and should be duly celebrated, DuPage is only one campus among thousands in the United States. The rabid and hysterical reaction of the faculty unions and national academic organizations to the Bill’s introduction at DuPage may prove daunting to trustees and administrators at other institutions who are considering similar measures to protect students’ academic freedom. Even at DuPage, the teachers union does not consider the matter fully resolved; Nancy Stanko, president of the DuPage Faculty Association, has already raised the possibility of challenging the Bill’s adoption on the grounds that it was re-included in the policy manual without proper notice.
Comments Horowitz, “I am grateful for the courage of the DuPage trustees who adopted this policy over so much opposition and a misinformation campaign of the teachers unions. My hope is that their actions will serve as an example for the trustees and administrators of other campuses across the nation.”