Monday, November 21, 2005

More against the Academic Bill of Rights

Before you read this letter, check out this website regarding the Academic Bill of Rights

I’m afraid I have some bad news: college students, not just at USM but nation wide, are becoming more sheltered and unable to use the tools of academia to argue a stance they believe in. “You lie!” I can hear you shout it now.

Really, I’m not lying. I’m trying to draw your attention to the current ominous threat to universities and colleges across the nation: the misnamed Academic Bill of Rights. This bill essentially says if college students are scared of opinions they don’t agree with, then they can, when confronted by these opinions, take it on themselves to say “Hey, you’re not allowed to express that opinion because I find it threatening.” This undermines the fundamental purpose of a college: to create responsible, cognizant citizens who have the maturity, ability and backbone to engage in a civil discourse.

I encourage you to carefully read this bill (and read between the lines) and examine the motives of its supporters. The bill attempts to silence professors from expressing “liberal” political opinions in the classroom. Last time I checked, college students were adults – read: consumers – and wanted to be treated as such. This bill treats college students like elementary school kids. It enforces the idea that we can’t support our own opinions or beliefs when in a dialogue or discussion with another adult – oddly enough another adult who we are buying a product from (i.e. paying their wages) and could protest simply by not purchasing what they are selling. Isn’t this how the free market is supposed to work when dealing with products for sale?

According to the website, people who disagree with the intent of the bill represent leftists who live in a world of myths. Supporters of the bill champion it as helping to stop “liberal professors” from pushing “political agendas.” There are no comments about stopping the political agendas of conservative professors. This doesn’t seem to be about “rights” anymore. Stop playing politics with my education! The university – all universities – should be places that encourage a variety of ideals and beliefs. It’s abhorrent, offensive to the very nature of higher education that one political group would even attempt to squash the voice of another.

Even if you ultimately disagree with my stance on the bill, there is one thing I hope you agree with me on: your education is too important to be used as a political pawn. This is the saddest thing about this bill; rather than trying to pass it with the ideals that supposedly inspire it, it has been turned into a partisan bayonet.

So, what can we do? First we need to think really hard about the long-term effects that passing the Academic Bill of Freedom would have. Do you really want your children’s college to be a four indoctrination into a single political ideology? If not, let your representatives know this bill would harm the quality of education in the future by limiting dialogue.

And second, USM needs to start taking steps NOW to prevent this degradation of discourse. The University needs to make it impossible for students to isolate themselves into little islands of people who only share the exact same view points they hold. The Board of Student Organizations should withhold funds from the Catholic Newman Club and the Pagan Association until members from each group participate in a worship ceremony of the other group’s tradition. The same goes for the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and the Baha'i Campus Association or, politically speaking, the College Republicans and College Democrats.

Hey now, that could actually be a fun idea!

For those of you who don't know, I currently edit a weekly college newspaper. Recently, I published this letter from the editor. Any feed back on these is much appreciated.

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