May 2, 2005
SAF Affecting UT-Austin??
I am proud to say that I started the UT Chapter of SAF with the help of some friends. Keep up the great work, guys! A Revealing Case at the University of Texas A recent debacle at the University of Texas drove home this very point. As was reported in an article on the InsideHigherEd.com website, the UT Board of Regents sent out a memo last month announcing an update to its rules on faculty rights and responsibility. Among the policies detailed in the memo was a section on “Freedom in the Classroom,” which stated that, “Faculty members are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his or her subject, but are expected not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter that has no relation to his or her subject.” The InsideHigherEd.com article reveals what happened next: “As that language spread across the Internet, some professors suggested that there was a new crackdown in the works on what goes on in faculty classrooms, apparently to pre-empt David Horowitz-style “Academic Bill of Rights” legislation to regulate faculty conduct.”As it turns out, the faculty’s fears were both hysterical and utterly misguided. They were correct in thinking that the policy was similar—in fact, nearly identical—to that contained in many of the state legislative bills based on the Academic Bill of Rights. But they were wrong in thinking that it was new. The policy had actually been in place for decades, as have similar policies at universities all across the country, though a UT spokesman told InsideHigherEd that he could not recall any instance in which disciplinary proceedings had been brought against a faculty member for violating it.This incident is highly telling and speaks to the need for an Academic Bill of Rights. If the faculty at the University of Texas are wholly unaware of the policies governing academic freedom in the classroom, how can students possibly be expected to know and understand their rights, much less pursue grievances based on them? The Academic Bill of Rights and the state legislation inspired by it would remedy this disconnect between existing policy and practice.