Academic Bill of Rights

An editorial in today’s Daily Beacon attacks the Academic Bill of Rights:

Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, are proposing something they’re calling an “academic bill of rights” to ensure that professors never use their classrooms as a forum for their religious and political beliefs. The bill calls for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to adopt a system to accept complaints from students who feel their rights have been violated. Further, the bill would also address funding for speakers which the legislators proposing the bill feel are disproportionately liberal.

This one of the worst ideas we’ve heard in quite sometime. We don’t use the word “stupid” very often, but this is a case where we’re really tempted to do so.

The editorial then goes on to outline its objections to the bill, each of which merits a response:

First of all, there is no way to tell whether a “complaint” is actually legitimate or not. In a lot of ways it comes down to the professor’s word against the student’s

This may be true in some cases. But to say there is “no way” is dishonest. Many students tape lectures. If a number of complaints are filed against the same professor over an extended period of time, I think it is safe the assume the situation may merit investigation. Also, if a student feels he has been graded down by a professor for his or her political or religious beliefs – and another professor’s reviews the work and concurs – then the matter is pretty open and shut.

Secondly, this sort of situation is a slippery slope, creeping dangerously close to limiting the freedom of speech of a professor. Of all the places whether lively debate and discussion should occur, it’s in the college classroom. And this bill offers avenues to limit this freedom, spiraling into a potentially Orwellian university environment and raising questions of constitutionality.

No it doesn’t. It simply aims to ensure that students can speak up and challenge their professors without fear of retribution. It actually encourages freedom of speech, on behalf of the students. And aren’t the students what the college classroom is supposed to be all about?

Finally, and most importantly, there is absolutely no need for bill.

The faculty handbook reads that the “classroom should not be used as a theater for expression of personal views not germane to the course.”

As someone who has attended UT for three years, I can say that this part of the faculty handbook is not being enforced. I have sat through many classes and been informed that capitalism is a racism, sexist system, the U.S. is solely interested in Iraq’s oil, and to read books like Blowback (with no balancing perspective), among other enlightened opinions. These assertions mostly went unchallenged. Why? For one, some of them happened in classrooms of hundreds of students. In these rooms, it is next to impossible to challenge a professor since questions are rarely ever addressed. Secondly, students are often afraid of the consequences on their grades. That’s not to say that all professors would grade them down; most probably would not. But it can be quite intimidating for an 18 or 19 year old freshman to challenge a professor. If this bill helps them do so, I see no reason to oppose it.

Even if the UT faculty handbook policy on politicization was enforced, the bill would still be positive. Sometimes, the University of Tennessee forgets that there are other colleges and universities in the state. There are UTC, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee State, Memphis, Pellissippi State, Roane State, and Austin Peay to name a few. Do they all have similar policies? And if so, are they being enforced?

The editorial ends thusly:

And what right does the Legislature have to address where funding for university speakers goes? It’s absolutely not in their realm of worry as to what speakers, say, the Issues Committee brings to campus. Plus, groups such as the Issues Committee almost always takes pains to be sure there is a fair balance of conservative and liberal viewpoints presented when it creates its schedule of speakers.

To our brilliant state legislators who came up with this idea, we only have one thing to say – stay out of matters that are absolutely none of your concern.

The last time I checked, UT was a public institution funded by taxpayer dollars. Yet the author of this editorial feels that the taxpayers should have no say in where their money goes. This is the utmost of arrogance. Why shouldn’t the good people of Tennessee have a say in the matter? Is it because they are too stupid? Perhaps the writer thinks so, as he closes by attacking the intelligence of Stacey Campfield and Raymond Finney. That is unfortunate state of political discourse today – it isn’t enough to simply disagree with one’s politics, you must also attack their intelligence.

The part about the Issues Committee will bring a smile to the fact of anyone who remembers the events of the Fall of 2003. Sukhmani Singh Khalsa outlined the chronic bias of the committee in an editorial, which led a committee member to suggest that he be “shot in the f—–g face” (This is featured in “Brainwashing 101″). Another members admitted the committee’s liberal leanings. Shockingly, none of this is mentioned in the editorial. Instead, we are assured that “groups such as the Issues Committee almost always takes pains to be sure there is a fair balance of conservative and liberal viewpoints presented.”

In fairness, the Issues Committee has worked harder and done a better job since the incident to bring a wider array of speakers. But it shouldn’t have taken death threats against conservative columnists to make it happen. The university has made it clear that it cannot be trusted alone to give equal times to both sides of a debate.

This editorialist’s anger should be at the university, for failing in it’s mission to provide a balanced, non-politicized education. Instead, it simply opts to shoot the messengers.

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Academic Bill of Rights

An editorial in today’s Daily Beacon attacks the Academic Bill of Rights:

Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, are proposing something they’re calling an “academic bill of rights” to ensure that professors never use their classrooms as a forum for their religious and political beliefs. The bill calls for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to adopt a system to accept complaints from students who feel their rights have been violated. Further, the bill would also address funding for speakers which the legislators proposing the bill feel are disproportionately liberal.

This one of the worst ideas we’ve heard in quite sometime. We don’t use the word “stupid” very often, but this is a case where we’re really tempted to do so.

The editorial then goes on to outline its objections to the bill, each of which merits a response:

First of all, there is no way to tell whether a “complaint” is actually legitimate or not. In a lot of ways it comes down to the professor’s word against the student’s

This may be true in some cases. But to say there is “no way” is dishonest. Many students tape lectures. If a number of complaints are filed against the same professor over an extended period of time, I think it is safe the assume the situation may merit investigation. Also, if a student feels he has been graded down by a professor for his or her political or religious beliefs – and another professor’s reviews the work and concurs – then the matter is pretty open and shut.

Secondly, this sort of situation is a slippery slope, creeping dangerously close to limiting the freedom of speech of a professor. Of all the places whether lively debate and discussion should occur, it’s in the college classroom. And this bill offers avenues to limit this freedom, spiraling into a potentially Orwellian university environment and raising questions of constitutionality.

No it doesn’t. It simply aims to ensure that students can speak up and challenge their professors without fear of retribution. It actually encourages freedom of speech, on behalf of the students. And aren’t the students what the college classroom is supposed to be all about?

Finally, and most importantly, there is absolutely no need for bill.

The faculty handbook reads that the “classroom should not be used as a theater for expression of personal views not germane to the course.”

As someone who has attended UT for three years, I can say that this part of the faculty handbook is not being enforced. I have sat through many classes and been informed that capitalism is a racism, sexist system, the U.S. is solely interested in Iraq’s oil, and to read books like Blowback (with no balancing perspective), among other enlightened opinions. These assertions mostly went unchallenged. Why? For one, some of them happened in classrooms of hundreds of students. In these rooms, it is next to impossible to challenge a professor since questions are rarely ever addressed. Secondly, students are often afraid of the consequences on their grades. That’s not to say that all professors would grade them down; most probably would not. But it can be quite intimidating for an 18 or 19 year old freshman to challenge a professor. If this bill helps them do so, I see no reason to oppose it.

Even if the UT faculty handbook policy on politicization was enforced, the bill would still be positive. Sometimes, the University of Tennessee forgets that there are other colleges and universities in the state. There are UTC, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee State, Memphis, Pellissippi State, Roane State, and Austin Peay to name a few. Do they all have similar policies? And if so, are they being enforced?

The editorial ends thusly:

And what right does the Legislature have to address where funding for university speakers goes? It’s absolutely not in their realm of worry as to what speakers, say, the Issues Committee brings to campus. Plus, groups such as the Issues Committee almost always takes pains to be sure there is a fair balance of conservative and liberal viewpoints presented when it creates its schedule of speakers.

To our brilliant state legislators who came up with this idea, we only have one thing to say – stay out of matters that are absolutely none of your concern.

The last time I checked, UT was a public institution funded by taxpayer dollars. Yet the author of this editorial feels that the taxpayers should have no say in where their money goes. This is the utmost of arrogance. Why shouldn’t the good people of Tennessee have a say in the matter? Is it because they are too stupid? Perhaps the writer thinks so, as he closes by attacking the intelligence of Stacey Campfield and Raymond Finney. That is unfortunate state of political discourse today – it isn’t enough to simply disagree with one’s politics, you must also attack their intelligence.

The part about the Issues Committee will bring a smile to the fact of anyone who remembers the events of the Fall of 2003. Sukhmani Singh Khalsa outlined the chronic bias of the committee in an editorial, which led a committee member to suggest that he be “shot in the f—–g face” (This is featured in “Brainwashing 101″). Another members admitted the committee’s liberal leanings. Shockingly, none of this is mentioned in the editorial. Instead, we are assured that “groups such as the Issues Committee almost always takes pains to be sure there is a fair balance of conservative and liberal viewpoints presented.”

In fairness, the Issues Committee has worked harder and done a better job since the incident to bring a wider array of speakers. But it shouldn’t have taken death threats against conservative columnists to make it happen. The university has made it clear that it cannot be trusted alone to give equal times to both sides of a debate.

This editorialist’s anger should be at the university, for failing in it’s mission to provide a balanced, non-politicized education. Instead, it simply opts to shoot the messengers.

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