Wednesday, July 06, 2005


David Horowitz isn’t mentioned by name in a two-page statement being released today by 26 higher education organizations. But the statement, on “academic rights and responsibilities,” is a response to Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights,” which many professors view as an assault on their rights.

Organizers of the statement being issued today say that it was an effort to state publicly that academe is not monolithic ideologically and that colleges can — without the government — deal with professors (a distinct few, according to most academic leaders) who punish students for their views. Organizers hoped the statement would deflate the movement in state legislatures and Congress to enact the Academic Bill of Rights. Horowitz called the statement “a major victory” for his campaign and said that it opened up the possibility that he would work directly with colleges on remaining differences of opinion, rather than seeking legislation.

Congressional Republicans — some of whom had been expected to push the Horowitz legislation — also praised the statement. And the praise from Republicans and Horowitz pleased many college leaders, who have been frustrated by the way their institutions have been portrayed by Horowitz and some lawmakers as leftist and intolerant. The statement issued today focuses on “intellectual pluralism and academic freedom,” and offers five “overarching principles” for colleges:

* Diversity of institutions is a “central feature and strength” of American higher education, and the individual missions of colleges, defined by the colleges themselves, “should set the tone for the academic activities undertaken.”

* Colleges should welcome “intellectual pluralism” and promote an environment where the debates fostered by such pluralism take place with a spirit of “openness, tolerance and civility.”

* Grades should be based “solely on considerations that are intellectually relevant to the subject matter under consideration,” and students and faculty members should be free from being punished for their political views. Any who feel that they have been discriminated against in this regard should have a “clear institutional process” for a grievance.

* The validity of ideas should be judged by “the intellectual standards of relevant academic and professional disciplines,” without any presumption that all ideas have equal merit.

* Government must respect colleges’ “independence,” creating a special obligation for colleges to assure academic freedom for all.

There are similar themes in the statement and in the “Academic Bill of Rights,” which has been pushed by Horowitz, a one-time radical turned conservative, in numerous state legislatures and in Congress. Many professors, however, believe that the language in the bill would make professors vulnerable to student complaints any time controversial material was covered and would require colleges to seek ideological balance on topics where most professors think that such balance is absurd (did the Holocaust happen? is evolution real?). While Horowitz has repeatedly denied that is his goal, some of his legislative supporters have said that they see the bill as a step toward changing the way evolution is taught in higher education. In contrast, the statement from the academic groups stipulates that colleges, not the government, should decide on the curriculum and the extent to which departments should seek a diversity of thought.

David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, which led the efforts to draft the statement, said the idea was to embrace part of Horowitz’s message, but not all of it. “What was happening was that individuals who were critics of higher education were making, to my mind, perfectly reasonable statements that universities should be places of intellectual pluralism, civility and fairness,” Ward said. “I might quibble about details, but I found myself saying, ‘They have a point.’ Ward said that while there were “striking similarities” between the association’s statement and the Academic Bill of Rights, it was important to note the way the associations protected faculty and institutional rights. “These are principles, and the idea is that campus should refine them,” he said.

Issues of ideological bias, Ward said, are not rampant in American higher education. But he said that the debate over the Academic Bill of Rights did draw attention to the fact that many colleges haven’t outlined what a student should do if he or she feels that they are being discriminated against because of their political views. “Some of our institutions don’t have procedures in place, and they should,” he said.

The groups backing the statement includes those whose members are institutions, presidents, deans and professors. One of the college leaders who played a key role in developing the statement — and selling it to conservatives — was Robert C. Andringa, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Andringa said he believed that problems with political intolerance are far fewer than Horowitz has charged. And he said that Horowitz’s legislation was wrong because “it is inappropriate for legislative bodies to get involved in academic freedom issues.” The statement is important, Andringa said, “in that it shows that the higher education community recognized the political and public interest in the issue.” He said that the debate had become a public relations problem that was hurting higher education. “This is the kind of thing that translates into lower appropriations in states, and less of a commitment by lawmakers to higher education, so we have to take it seriously,” Andringa said.

In an e-mail interview, Horowitz called the statement by the academic groups “a major victory” and said that it created “an opportunity to open a dialogue with educators that had not been possible before.” Horowitz suggested that the statement might make it possible for him and his supporters to stop pushing the Academic Bill of Rights. But he also made clear that was not yet a done deal. “Until the rights are codified by the universities themselves as student rights (professors have these rights written into their contracts) and the grievance machinery is set up,” he said, legislation might be needed. “That depends on the university systems. The door has now been opened for discussions. If the discussions lead to a situation in which the universities are dealing with these problems in a satisfactory manner, then there will be no further need for legislation. At the moment however all this remains to be seen.”

More here


A week ago, 28 higher education groups issued a statement on “academic rights and responsibilities” that was designed in part to prevent David Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights” from gaining more support in Congress or state legislatures. The idea was to show that colleges — despite what Horowitz says — care about fairness and intellectual diversity. No one is coming out against fairness and intellectual diversity. But the American Federation of Teachers — which represents 130,000 faculty members — is not happy about the statement (even if it doesn’t object to the words in it). AFT leaders say that the statement will invite Congress and legislatures to weigh in on higher education in inappropriate ways. In addition, they worry that the joint statement gave legitimacy to Horowitz, whose views have offended many academics.

Lawrence Gold, director of program and policy development for the AFT, said that if the House of Representatives endorses the associations’ statement, as many expect it will, “it will involve the government describing how the academy should protect academic matters,” adding, “we don’t think the government has any business here.”

AFT officials met this week with leaders of the American Council on Education, which coordinated the efforts to release the statement, to discuss their concerns. (Officials of the National Education Association have also been involved in the discussions, but could not be reached for comment.) In addition, some rank and file members of the American Association of University Professors have been questioning why that group signed on to the statement. Privately, some faculty members have said that the AAUP and the other higher education groups “caved” to Horowitz, although other faculty leaders say that the statement was a shrewd political move.

The dispute is one of subtleties, albeit important ones. Much of the statement issued by the higher education groups and indeed parts of the Academic Bill of Rights don’t upset faculty members, who say that they have always followed principles of judging students on their academic merits, not political litmus tests. The Academic Bill of Rights, which was introduced in numerous state legislatures this year and is included, in resolution form, in the Higher Education Act legislation that Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee introduced this spring, goes further. Many faculty members believe that its definitions of fairness would force them to avoid taking firm stands on anything, and would require them to present alternative views on such subjects as the Holocaust and evolution. The joint statement of the college groups, however, specifically said that government shouldn’t be deciding what should be taught, and that colleges and disciplines need to take the lead role in such decisions.

But Gold, of the AFT, said that tacitly endorsing the idea of the House or state legislatures adopting that statement runs directly counter to the statement’s ideal of keeping government out of academic decisions altogether. Gold said that the AFT and the NEA — which have worked together to oppose the Academic Bill of Rights — would continue to oppose any resolution on these issues being passed in Congress, even one based on the joint statement. Gold stressed that he saw the joint statement of college groups as much better than the Academic Bill of Rights, and that those who drafted the statement were “not the bad guys here.”

The problem for those who don’t like the statement is that they view Horowitz as a bad guy, believing that he has distorted what goes on in higher education and the records of some faculty members. For so many higher education groups to issue a statement responding to his movement, they say, gives him stature he doesn’t deserve. “That statement allows some of the people who have been most critical of higher education and most wrong about it to say that they bested us, even though that couldn’t have been anyone’s intention on the part of those who did it,” Gold said. “It’s being portrayed as, ‘Higher education realized the error of its ways and put this together.’ “ Mark Smith, director of government relations for the AAUP, said that he has heard such concerns from some members, although he said that the statement “speaks for itself” and shouldn’t be viewed as helping Horowitz.

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the ACE, said that the statement was not written for Congress or Horowitz. “We have been hearing from college and university presidents that they felt exposed because there was not a statement that they could point to as what they work for,” and this statement provides them with a set of principles to use. Hartle said that while he wasn’t seeking to have Congress endorse the statement, it was likely that the House of Representatives was going to adopt some resolution this year, and that it was important for lawmakers to have an alternative to the Academic Bill of Rights. “If we have something that we wrote and that is broadly acceptable to the higher education community and something we didn’t write and that we have serious concerns about, I’m going to go with what we wrote,” he said.

As to whether Horowitz gained legitimacy from the associations’ statement, Hartle said that Horowitz’s influence in some circles made him a force already, regardless of what one thinks of his ideas. “David Horowitz is already legitimate,” Hartle said. “The notion that some people think he isn’t given great weight and attention by policy makers is just wrong.”

As for Horowitz, he said that the unions should be embracing his efforts, and those of the groups that issued the joint statement last week. In an e-mail interview, he said, “The American Council on Education statement merely recognizes the fact that in the present academic and political climates it is important to reiterate the university community’s commitment to intellectual diversity and pluralism and to nondiscrimination against anyone in the academy — student or professor, left or right.” Horowitz said that if he has more influence as a result of the debates over the Academic Bill of Rights, “it is only because I have called attention to these problems and to the need for academic organizations and institutions to recommit themselves to these principles and values. If the NEA and the AFT want to continue to oppose them and play an obstructionist role, that is unfortunate, but it is their decision.”

Some faculty leaders applaud the joint statement. Cary Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that “progressive faculty members” face far more risks of their rights being violated than conservative faculty members, and that risk will increase should the United States suffer additional terrorist attacks. So Nelson said that the statement endorsed by the college groups would be good for those professors. Noting that such principles would have protected scholars who lost jobs during the McCarthy era or other periods, Nelson said that in the context of the history of American higher education, Horowitz should be viewed “as just a recent blip on the screen.”


David Horowitz Responds to the American Federation of Teachers

AFT raises objections to the American Council on Education statement on intellectual diversity and academic freedom

As I have said many times in the course of this campaign, our legislative effort is designed to get university administrations to live up to their own commitments to academic freedom. Many of them have provisions in place that would ensure that education rather than political indoctrination is taking place in their classrooms but are not enforcing them. If the AFT and the NEA would put their weight behind our efforts to get universities to enforce and enhance their academic freedom guidelines, the legislative effort would be redundant and disappear. Instead, both these organizations have chosen to conduct a campaign of malicious distortion of the bills and their intent and equally regrettable name-calling to demonize myself and the legislators who are sponsoring the bills. This is not constructive and does not help the cause of academic freedom.

The AFT's stated objections to the statement by the American Council on Education that this would invite government intrusion into academic affairs doesn't pass the smell test. When has the AFT objected to government guidelines on sexual harassment or racial diversity on college campuses? Why then object to a resolution on intellectual diversity, which is fundamental principle of American society?

As for the AFT's complaint that the ACE statement enhances my role as a "player" in higher education, the American Council on Education statement merely recognizes the fact that in the present academic and political climates it is important to reiterate the university community's commitment to intellectual diversity and pluralism and to non-discrimination against anyone in the academy -- student or professor, left or right. If I am a player, it is only because I have called attention to these problems and to the need for academic organizations and institutions to recommit themselves to these principles and values. If the NEA and the AFT want to continue to oppose them and play an obstructionist role, that is unfortunate, but it is their decision.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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