Bill calls for balance
A nonbinding resolution currently being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives calls for states to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights that would balance ideological viewpoints in college classrooms.
The purpose of the bill, according to a press release from the office of Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), is "to ensure fairness in higher education and protect college students from one-sided liberal propaganda."
The press release further explained that the bill would not dictate curriculum or place quotas on colleges, but was instead a call to them to adopt voluntary measures to increase academic fairness. It would allow states to choose the content of their own bill of rights.
"The student should be able to make up his or her mind," said Kingston's legislative assistant, Stephen Anderson.
However, many in the academic community oppose the bill, which is currently being considered by the House Committee of Education and the Workforce.
A statement from the American Association of University Professors said the group "condemns the legislation for threatening to impose administrative and legislative oversight on the professional judgment of faculty."
The statement goes on to say that "Academic freedom can only be maintained so long as faculty remain autonomous and self-governing." Anderson said, "I would tell critics to read the bill very carefully ... the legislation itself does not legislate curriculum, it never mentions the words Democrat or Republican."
Both supporters and opponents agree that universities should be fair and balanced in presenting ideas. Glenn Harnden, associate dean of AU's School of Communication, stressed that not only should opinions be balanced, but also that students should be given the critical analysis tools to decide what they believe.
"A good faculty member will present, should present, a balanced view and tell the students so they know when they're moving from fact to opinion," Harnden said.
However, the most effective method for creating this ideal environment is the real discussion with the bill.
"I don't think that legislation is at all where matters like this should be dealt with," Harnden said.
The bill, which has 35 co-sponsors, is still in committee. It is unclear whether it will be discussed and voted on before the legislative year ends in October.