Jan 272004
 
Authors: Chris Kampfe

A bill will be introduced today designed to protect the civil

rights of students in higher education.

The bill is an academic bill of rights and will address the

neutrality of universities in relation to political and religious

beliefs.

A student group at the University of Colorado-Boulder recently

put a link on its organization’s Web site for students to report

politically biased professors.

Brad Jones, 20, the chairman of the College Republicans at CU

and the student who posted the site, is worried that a new semester

starting might be a start up of indoctrination in the

classroom.

“If your biology professor chooses to talk about how (Howard)

Dean is the best Democratic candidate instead of explaining how

cell reproduction works, we need to hear about it,” Jones said in a

Denver Post article.

Jones and the College Republicans at CU are affiliated with the

Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), a group formed by California

conservative activist David Horowitz. SAF is a group that says its

mission is to promote diversity on campus and defend students’

right to be treated equally on campus, regardless of political or

religious affiliation.

Robert Lee, a senior at CSU as well as the state vice chairmen

for College Republicans, looks to bring a chapter of SAF to

campus.

“I think there’s a bias on campus, whether or not it actually

harms students’ grades,” Lee said. “We know that when students

report cases some are overblown, but some are legitimate.”

Horowitz said the issue of biased classrooms and professors

emerged when he was visiting campuses around the country.

“It was seven or eight years ago I spoke at St. Johns when I

started realizing that there is always more than one side to any

question, and if (the universities) aren’t addressing different

sides, you’re being robbed of an education,” Horowitz said. “I met

a girl there who was a criminal justice major whose older sister

was murdered. When we started talking about capital punishment, she

said she had no idea there was actually material supporting capital

punishment because her professor had never presented any. That’s

not right.”

Horowitz came to Colorado last June, which is also when SAF

emerged.

Bill Chaloupka, chair of the political science department, has

been following the movement since its inception.

“It seems that Colorado is a test bed for the proposal,”

Chaloupka said. “In the Academic Bill of Rights seen on the

American Association of University Professor’s (AAUP) Web site,

Colorado is the only state even mentioned.”

Horowitz said he has given speeches on campus where he would

have to be escorted by security to and from the facilities because

of potential physical and verbal harassment.

“You can’t have real discussions about things like Affirmative

Action,” Horowitz said. “People’s tempers rise and people are

intimidated to say how they feel.”

Chaloupka sees the situation differently.

“I would like to see civil debate without intimidation,”

Chaloupka said. “It’s also the case that sometime Mr. Horowitz says

some inflammatory things. If fire is your medium there’s going to

be heat around you. Not that your free speech shouldn’t be

protected, but not expecting a response is na�ve.”

Though CU’s Republicans do have an affiliation with the SAF,

Horowitz said, “It’s not about conservatives by any means. It’s

about stopping professors from abusing the classroom.”

Because SAF has such affiliations with Republicans, some people

often view their motives as conservatively driven.

“Right now, all such efforts to show a neutral organization fall

under the shadow of names like Horowitz, Sen. (John) Andrews and

Gov. Owens — all partisan Republicans,” Chaloupka said. “It will

be hard for (SAF) to separate themselves from that shadow.”

Ryan Call, a law student at University of Denver and the state

coordinator for SAF, has noticed some predisposition to the group

as well.

“The issue is that freedom of speech and freedom of conscience

rights are being neglected by professors,” Call said. “Horowitz

didn’t even want his name associated with policy suggestions. It’s

unfortunate Democrats are using this to take shots at

Republicans.”

Another goal of SAF is to introduce into legislation an Academic

Bill of Rights.

Rep. Shawn Mitchell dispelled the rumors that legislators would

not deal with the issue.

“I think that reporters are inferring it’s not around anymore

because so much time passed,” Mitchell said. “It’s a delicate

subject matter to legislate because it’s hard to legislate civil

actions. This bill will borrow (language) from other civil rights

bills.”

So far, three main points are known that the bill will address.

First, that students can expect professors will not create hostile

environments relating to students religious or political beliefs.

Second, students have the right to expect that they will be graded

solely on performance and not have their work discriminated against

because of political and religious material. Lastly, students have

the right to expect their academic institution to distribute

student fee funds on a viewpoint-neutral basis.

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