Academic Freedom Cont'd: Yet more on Ohio Senate bill 24

The Faculty Senate at Ohio University "unanimously passed a resolution opposing Ohio Senate Bill 24, which calls for the establishment of a so-called 'Academic Bill of Rights.'" Hmm ... no reporter bias here. I believe David Horowitz does, in fact, call it an Academic Bill of Rights. No "so-called" required.

University faculty, including those at OU, largely have opposed such efforts, saying they violate academic freedom and duplicate grievance processes already available to disgruntled students.

The OU faculty resolution claims that such a law would "shift responsibility for conducting and monitoring academic affairs from universities and professional accrediting organizations to state government," and that the body "vigorously opposes S.B. 24 both in spirit and substance and calls for withdrawal of the (state) Senate bill."
Parsing out the elements:
  • Restricts academic freedom. As I've argued before, the whining about restricting academic freedom just doesn't hold water. If faculty are teaching their discipline, the law would have no effect on them. If that's the case, then why the intense opposition?

  • Duplicates existing processes. If the law does duplicate existing processes available to students, that's seems the glimmer an argument with some substance. To argue that processes exist inspires the obvious next question: are existing student grievance processes sufficient or effective. I am aware of an instance in which a faculty at a university in the Ohio State system menacingly warned a class that he kept a gun. No students reported the incident because they lacked sufficient confidence that the established "student grievance procedures" would protect them or their grade in the class.

  • Shifts responsibility. I believe the "shift responsibility" argument misses the primary point that this legislation is aimed primarily at university administrators; that it inspires university administrators to ensure that students are receiving the education they believe they are paying for. Yes, but isn't this what university administrators are supposed to do? Yes. Do they? Sometimes. Is this legislation the best way to increase the accountability of university administrators? Probably not. The legislature controls the budgets of all Ohio system Universities. Budgetary control would seem to provide legislators their most powerful weapon for ensuring that state universities support free discourse. Ultimately, this legislation is a warning shot that should not be ignored.

This irony from Megan, a student at BGSU:

And what exactly is there to protect us from? From hearing someone voice an opinion we disagree with?

Listening to other people say things you don't like is something that will happen a lot in your lifetime. You can't enact a law for every situation where your opinion could potentially meet adversity.

Accept it. Embrace it. Have a heated discussion, become passionate, let someone offend you every once in awhile. It's not going to kill you.

If you disagree that wholeheartedly with someone, a professor or anybody else, it will only remind you of why you feel the way you do. It will affirm your views and make your convictions that much stronger.

After all, isn't that what becoming an educated person is all about?

I agree completely with Megan that encountering alternate perspectives is essential to growth. Yet, I believe Megan misses the point of SB #24. SB #24 is all about spirited debate and fervent exploration of contrasting positions. SB #24 actually encourages such a climate. Unfortunately, some faculty believe they have a right to grade students on the basis the ideology they express rather than the quality of their reasoning. That is not what becoming an educated person is about. This is the faculty behavior SB #24 addresses. Mastering the skill of collecting facts and organizing them into a coherent (possibly contradictory) position is what becoming an educated person is all about.

Megan concludes she is against SB #24. Yet, the arguments she advances instead suggest strong support for the thesis behind SB #24. SB #24 is all about expanding the variety of positions that you, and all students, have the opportunity to experience. How ironic.

No comments:

Post a Comment