Bill Backs Academic Freedom; Republicans Seek Intellectual Diversity at Colleges

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A group of House Republicans is calling on national colleges and universities to adopt an "academic bill of rights" to ensure "intellectual independence."

Students have a right to "get an education rather than an indoctrination," said Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, who introduced the bill this week with more than a dozen Republican co-sponsors.

Too many teachers are using classrooms "as their own personal soapboxes," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and a co-sponsor of the bill.

The measure urges colleges to seek intellectual diversity in their faculty, curricula, reading lists and campus speakers. Teachers should provide students with "dissenting sources and viewpoints" and refrain from using their courses "for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or antireligious indoctrination," says the bill, which draws heavily on a proposal written by radical turned conservative activist David Horowitz.

The House bill says it is not intended to apply to private religious colleges, but asks them to "be as explicit as is possible" about the scope and nature of their academic restrictions.

Clara M. Lovett, president of the American Association for Higher Education, said yesterday the House bill sounds "totally absurd."

"The strength of American higher education has always been that it has a great variety of institutions and programs. Most students can choose not only the programs and the institutions they attend, but usually they have choices in professors and courses," she said. …