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GUEST COMMENTARY: Students for Academic Freedom Exposes Florida Report as a Smokescreen; Policies protecting students’ academic freedom are non-existent on state campuses

Posted by kinchendavid on July 27, 2006

By Sara Dogan

National Campus Director,

Students for Academic Freedom

A recent report from Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability requested by the Florida state legislature purports to illustrate the extent of current academic freedom policies for both students and faculty at public colleges and universities in the state. But an examination by Students for Academic Freedom of the specific policies and procedures in place in Florida state colleges and universities reveals that the report is a typical bureaucratic smokescreen and no such protections even exist.

The report claims that “All Florida public postsecondary institutions have language and policies addressing academic freedom.” Despite this assertion, the report omits any reference to specific policies providing students with clearly-defined academic freedom rights or specific links to where they might be found on official websites.

SAF’s examination of the student academic freedom policies at several public universities in the state reveals exactly why this is: The policies do not exist. While Florida’s colleges and universities typically have policies addressing academic freedom, these statements are almost universally dedicated to faculty and their responsibilities and do not offer any clear definitions of students’ rights.

The report in fact concedes this, with statements like, “academic freedom statements generally do not extensively address student rights” and “faculty grievance policies are more specific to academic freedom than are student grievance policies.” In other words, student grievance policies do not cover students’ academic freedom rights.

Despite the report’s failure to cite a single comprehensive policy on students’ academic freedom, media sources and opponents of the Academic Bill of Rights took the report’s assertions that current academic freedom protections for students are in place at face value, prompting SAF to undertake this further evaluation of the report.

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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