Yesterday, the House Education Committee of the South Dakota legislature passed HB 1222, a bill that would require South Dakota’s public colleges and universities to report annually on the steps they have taken to protect intellectual diversity and academic freedom, by a decisive 10-5 vote.
Inspired by the academic freedom campaign launched by Students for Academic Freedom, HB 1222 was introduced by Rep. Phyllis Heineman, the chairman of the House Education Committee for the South Dakota legislature. More than 30 additional legislators from both sides of the aisle have co-sponsored the legislation.
“This is an important victory for academic freedom in South Dakota,” said David Horowitz, the chairman of Students for Academic Freedom. “I thank the South Dakota legislature for recognizing the importance of this issue, and urge the state’s colleges and universities to carry out the mandate for academic freedom and intellectual diversity set forth by the House Education Committee in this vote.”
If the bill wins passage before the full legislature, South Dakota’s public colleges and universities will be required to submit annual reports addressing the “specific measures taken by the institution to ensure and promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom.” Intellectual diversity is defined in the bill as “the foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological, and other perspectives.”
Rep. Phyllis Heineman, the sponsor of the bill, said that protecting academic freedom is a matter “of good governance” and referred to a recent statement from the American Council on Education which said that “colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas.”
Students for Academic Freedom is a national movement to promote intellectual diversity and to restore educational values to America’s institutions of higher learning. The organization recommends that colleges and universities adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to ensure that these principles are respected. The Academic Bill of Rights is available on the organization’s website at http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.
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