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Assault on Academic Freedom By: Jim Brown
Agape Press | Friday, June 23, 2006

A campus watchdog group contends the academic freedom of conservative students and faculty at America's colleges and universities is under constant assault. One example is given of a University of Pittsburgh student Janice Everly, who recently informed her English literature professor that she planned to miss class to take part in a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The professor responded in an e-mail by saying Everly would be given permission to miss class if she agreed to "rabble rouse" against President Bush at the fundraiser. According to the Pitt News, after receiving two more anti-Bush e-mail messages from the professor, Everly dropped the class.

Sara Dogan, national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, says similar abuses take place on campuses across the United States. She believes one reason conservative individuals and their viewpoints are often discriminated against in academic settings is that the conservatives are simply outnumbered.

"If you look at the ratios of Democratic to Republican professors on campuses," Dogan points says, "Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 10 to 1 in the humanities and by as much as 30 to 1 in certain fields." It is simply the case, she asserts, "that universities have a blacklist against conservatives."

In other words, the academic freedom advocate says, at many institutions of higher learning nationwide, a bias exists against hiring conservatives, and against offering conservative candidates tenure. "And so universities have basically become echo chambers for the left," she contends. "Conservative opinions aren't tolerated."

On the other hand, Dogan contends, rarely do college and university professors attempt to indoctrinate their students with conservative views. But even if that were the case, she says, the grievance process at most schools for students who feel their academic freedom rights have been violated is often long and cumbersome.

Often, the Students for Academic Freedom spokeswoman explains, students with a complaint must first consult the faculty member involved. If that is unsuccessful, they must then seek out the department chairman or dean and address a committee before a formal hearing is granted.

"If students feel that they've been harassed on the basis of their race, of their sex, or if they feel they have been sexually harassed, there's an office that they can go to," Dogan points out. However, she says while many universities have policies regarding professors' academic freedom rights, many schools offer no such protections for students.

"I don't see any reason why something like academic freedom, which is absolutely essential to the mission of a university, shouldn't have its own office or, at the very least, someone who the students specifically can contact if there's a problem," Dogan says.

In an effort to advocate for students' intellectual freedom and students' rights and to "restore intellectual diversity" to America's college and university communities, Students for Academic Freedom has set up chapters on campuses across the United States. The organization has also established a national office and coordinator in Washington, DC, and has petitioned legislators to enact an Academic Bill of Rights insisting on intellectual diversity in the university curriculum.

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Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.

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