Mar 212004
 
Authors: Erin Frustaci

The state legislature has killed the academic bill of rights for

the time being.

For now, Colorado universities will remain in charge of

protecting diverse viewpoints on their campuses.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said he

decided to shelve the bill because university presidents stepped

forward and agreed to ensure their policies protect political

diversity. They said professors are aware of and open to all

political viewpoints.

“I appreciate (CSU President Larry Penley’s) leadership in

reviewing policies and procedures and making sure the university

provides a fair and open forum for all viewpoints,” Mitchell

said.

House Bill 1315 would have required state universities to

implement changes in their grievance procedures for students who

felt they were being politically harassed or discriminated against

in the classroom.

Tom Milligan, assistant vice president for University Relations,

said the suspension of the bill is a positive step.

“The outcome is that as an institution of higher learning, we

are committed and continue to be committed to supporting freedom of

expression, a wide spectrum of political views and the First

Amendment,” Milligan said.

Bill Chaloupka, chair of the political science department, said

the university’s current policies against political discrimination

are stronger than the bill itself.

“The university had made the argument from the beginning that we

do have policies in place,” Chaloupka said. “The result in

legislature reaffirmed what we have been saying.”

Chaloupka was skeptical of any outside motives to the proposed

bill. He spoke with the CSU College Republicans and thought they

had good intentions, but he said he was worried about the motives

of those outside of CSU.

“I was concerned that some of the proponents around the state

were using this to some political advantage and not out of the best

interest of the universities,” Chaloupka said.

The bill could be reintroduced next year if any current problems

students experience are not resolved. For now, protecting students’

viewpoints is in state higher education institutions’ hands.

Universities have already agreed to ensure their grievance

procedures address political diversity and are making efforts to

inform students of the process.

“I’m hoping schools will take steps to make it unnecessary to

reintroduce the bill,” Mitchell said.

Robert Lee, a senior at CSU and the state vice chairman for the

College Republicans, strongly supported the bill but said he agreed

that its suspension is good.

“It shows that the state legislature trusts the universities to

do the right thing,” Lee said.

Lee said CSU has discrimination procedures already in place, but

it can improve on educating students of them.

Part of this can be done through student organizations such as

Students for Academic Freedom.

If the bill is brought up again, Lee said he would support it

even more because it would mean universities are unable to handle

the issue on their own.

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