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GUEST COMMENTARY: A New Campaign for the New School Year

Posted by kinchendavid on August 31, 2006

By Sara Dogan

Special to DavidKinchen.com

Dear Students and Supporters,

Welcome back to campus! As the summer winds to a close, we are excited to kick off the new school year with the announcement of a major victory that occurred during the summer break: Temple University instituted a Student Bill of Rights that paves the way for all our chapters across the country to call for the adoption of similar Bills for their universities. Read on for all the details on how you can make this a key issue on your campus this semester.

Temple University Adopts Student Bill of Rights

Spurred by the academic freedom hearings we inspired in Pennsylvania last year, Temple University in Philadelphia this July became the first university to adopt an academic freedom policy which specifically addresses student rights and not just faculty privileges; protects students from ideological abuses in the classroom; and provides a grievance machinery to handle violations of students’ academic freedom.

Titled “Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities,” the new Temple policy took effect on August 1 of this year. It reflects the concerns and recommendations of Students for Academic Freedom, which has promoted David Horowitz’s proposal for an Academic Bill of Rights, and which played an important role in the academic freedom hearings of the Pennsylvania House, which were held at Temple on January 9 and 10, 2006.

The policy emphasizes that students as well as professors are entitled to academic freedom: “Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus, and in the larger community. The University and the faculty have a responsibility to provide students with opportunities and protections that promote the learning process in all its aspects. Students similarly should exercise their freedom with responsibility.”

Equally important is a provision creating grievance machinery for students whose rights have been infringed. The policy specifies that this new grievance procedure is distinct from existing policies for handling grading disputes, and specifically addresses the student’s right to learn, free from political harassment and indoctrination. It outlines a procedure whereby a student can take a series of informal and then formal steps to challenge violations of academic freedom within the administration hierarchy.

The policy further provides for a reporting system that includes the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, thereby lessening the chance that professors will dissuade students through intimidation from filing grievances.

Unlike the existing academic freedom policies at Temple, the new policy will be included in the university catalogue that is distributed to all students. It has already been posted in the Policies and Procedures section of the university website so that all students will be made aware of their rights. This has been a prominent demand of the academic freedom campaign.

Bringing the Temple Bill of Rights to Your Campus

The new Student Bill of Rights at Temple University can become a powerful weapon in building the student movement for academic freedom at campuses across the nation. It presents a tremendous opportunity for us to challenge the political abuse of university classrooms by academic radicals by instituting a policy that specifically gives students the right to file a grievance with their board of trustees if their professors abuse them for their political, religious, or ideological views or attempt to use the classroom as a bully pulpit. We urge all our chapters to make the adoption of the Temple Policy a central focus of your academic freedom efforts this year.

You can find the Temple Policy here, and future letters will discuss strategies for bringing the Temple Student Bill of Rights to your administration, and will explain why we are recommending that one additional clause be included in the policies to be adopted at other universities.

How to Get Involved

If you’re not already active in Students for Academic Freedom, the new semester is the perfect time to start up a chapter of SAF on your campus. Deliver the message to your campus administration that abuse of students for their political, intellectual, or religious beliefs is unacceptable.

We have a great variety of printed SAF materials to give you, including a new pamphlet featuring testimony from the Pennsylvania academic freedom hearings held this past year and another pamphlet documenting David Horowitz’s testimony before the Kansas State Legislature. Many of these materials are also available online including our organizational handbook which details how to start a chapter and bring the academic freedom movement to your campus. Simply send me an email at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org and I will be happy to send you whatever quantities you need.

For more information on how you can get involved and start up a chapter on your campus or if you wish to report an abuse of your academic freedom, please contact me at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or at my new toll-free number here in St. Louis at 888-527-3321. You can also find more information on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

* * * *

Sara Dogan is National Campus Director of Students for Academic Freedom

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