In the past, intellectual pluralism and academic freedom have been highly valued central principles shared and upheld by most universities. However, in recent years many conservative activists and college students alike have begun to express concern that these principles have faded and are no longer respected by many professors. In 2003, in attempt to solve this problem one activist, David Horowitz, constructed and proposed a new Academic Bill of Rights (ABR) be implemented into universities. Horowitz’ ABR is based upon the concept that there are no limits to human knowledge and therefore no principle un-open to objection. The document is composed of eight tenets which aim to eliminate strong-minded professors from force-feeding vulnerable students their political views while
instead creating fair and comfortable environments for students to learn in. Horowitz’ ABR should be implemented into universities in order to assure equal learning environments that ensure all students are able to reach their full potential without the persuasion of others.
Perhaps one of the ABR’s most valuable philosophies is that academic growth progresses when students are able to take what they’ve learned and use it develop their own opinions. If professors are biased in their presentations and lessons in class students aren’t able to fully comprehend the subject on all levels. Just like a puzzle, if you’re missing pieces, you’re never going to be able to see the whole picture. When only one viewpoint of a controversy or situation is presented it’s not always easy to distinguish the idea as the whole picture, or merely a piece to the puzzle. The ABR says, “While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints,” allowing students to decide for themselves what to believe. After all, what value is your opinion if it’s really only the opinion of somebody else?
I’ve found that in today’s world many students, including myself, come into college with very little political knowledge, let alone a firm political stance. College for many is a place to explore and develop a better understanding of politics, and eventually establish a more concrete stance. Professors, many viewed as experts of their subjects, are often looked up to by students and have a great influence on many of them. When professors constantly preach bias political opinions or philosophies to students, they’re bound to have an effect. It’s a major concern that without regulations of the ABR in place some professors, from both sides of the spectrum, might knowledgably be taking advantage of the influence they have on these young minds. In a sense these professors could be robbing students, intentionally or unintentionally, of their right to learn and freedom to choose.
Political and Religious bias however, extends much farther than professors prematurely influencing students in the classroom. Many students have also expressed worries concerning the merit of professors grading due to opposing political or religious outlooks. Sharon Schuman narrates several of likely hundreds of cases like this in her article; “Picked on by the Prof.” She describes one student, Marissa Freimanis, of Cal State Long Beach, who’s perfect GPA was blemished after clashing political ideologies with an English professor. These types of instances shouldn’t be tolerated by universities. The ABR deems, “students will be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.” After all, a universities purpose is to oversee and help students grow and develop both intellectually and as individuals in order to succeed in life. To do this successfully its necessary universities implement the ABR to give students somewhere to turn to, and a system to help resolve these types of stressful situations.
Perhaps the most astonishing and blunt display of liberal bias in today’s academic world is that of Ward Churchill, University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor. In early 2005 news broke that the professor had written an essay, comparing victims of the September 11 terrorist attack to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. “The specter of the long-haired, chain-smoking, research-faking, America-bashing Mr. Churchill molding impressionable young minds turned Mr. Horowitz’s pet project into a national sensation almost overnight. Suddenly, it became difficult to argue that liberal bias on campus was the product of an overheated right-wing imagination,” states Valerie Richardson in her article “Academic Manifesto Takes Root.” The case of Ward Churchill may be an extreme one, but nonetheless proves indefinitely and undeniably that biased professors do in fact exist today.
However, despite these displays there are still those who argue that attempting to interpret the true intentions of a professor isn’t a realistic possibility, and surely isn’t something worth wasting time debating over. Some might even still say there is no issue here at all, that these are simply stories, crafted by the minds of angry conservative students. However, even imagining that being true, most would still agree with the principle of the matter; it would be wrong and unfair if a professor were to base student’s grade upon their political or religious beliefs. That being said, would it really hurt to implement the ABR as a precaution? If these situations are in fact unreal, the new principles wouldn’t affect anyone in a negative way, and at the same time would put those concerned conservative students at ease.
Although primarily focused on creating greater academic environments and opportunities for students, Horowitz’ ABR also touches on and strongly values that an equal playing field is given to professors as well. This stresses that professor’s religious or political ideologies aren’t taken into any consideration when decisions are being made. The ABR states that “all faculty shall be hired, fired, promoted and granted tenure on the basis of their competence and appropriate knowledge in the field of their expertise.” This not only insures that faculty is treated and administered equally, but furthermore that the quality of professors remains at the highest standards.
Horowitz’s ABR has the power to enrich the education and academic achievement at any university. It’s essential to the success of universities that the principles of intellectual pluralism and academic freedom come to be highly valued and respected once again. The ABR allows these two principles to coexist by creating open and safe academic standards and environments for students. In days like these with so many beginning to become concerned with professors, universities can’t afford to ignore this innovative document.