South Dakota legislators have introduced a bill that would require public colleges and universities to report annually on the steps they have taken to protect intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas on campus.
Inspired by the academic freedom campaign launched by Students for Academic Freedom, the bill, HB 1222 was introduced by Rep. Phyllis Heineman, the chairman of the House Education Committee for the South Dakota legislature. Over thirty additional legislators from both sides of the aisle have signed onto the legislation as co-sponsors.
The annual reports must address 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.”
Additional aspects of intellectual diversity which these annual reports may address include any actions taken by the institutions to:
- Establish clear campus policies that ensure that hecklers or threats of violence do not prevent speakers from speaking
- Include intellectual diversity concerns in the institution's guidelines on teaching
- Include intellectual diversity issues in student course evaluations
- Develop hiring, tenure, and promotion policies that protect individuals against political viewpoint discrimination and track any reported grievances in that regard
- Establish clear campus policies to ensure freedom of the press for students and report any incidents of student newspaper thefts or destruction
“This legislation is a major step toward achieving true academic freedom for South Dakota’s students,” commented David Horowitz, chairman of Students for Academic Freedom. “I thank Rep. Heineman and her fellow legislators who have had the courage to address these crucial issues.”
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 www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.
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