Magazine article University Business

Taking on Title VI: An Independent Advisory Board Has Educators Concerned about Academic Intrusion

Magazine article University Business

Taking on Title VI: An Independent Advisory Board Has Educators Concerned about Academic Intrusion

Article excerpt

An accountability issue, indirectly related to international affairs, has aroused concern in the post-secondary community as Congress moves toward reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), the priority piece of higher ed legislation on Capitol Hill.

The House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Select Education sent H.R. 509, the International Studies in Higher Education Act, to the full Education Committee. Authored by the subcommittee chair, Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the bill authorizes a broad range of programs that fall under Title VI of the HEA, including grants for studying foreign languages in American universities.

Among other provisions, the legislation creates a new International Education Advisory Board for all Title VI programs. The board, according to the Education Committee, will "increase accountability" by providing advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Education and the Congress on higher ed issues.

The problem, says Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education (www.acenet.edu.), is that the advisory board itself would be unaccountable. Independent of the Department of Education, it would comprise "folks who are politically appointed who don't really answer to anyone," Hartle says. "There is a great deal of concern that total autonomy from the department is a potential invitation to trouble."

The Education Committee, headed by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), maintains that the legislation "expressly prohibits the board from influencing curriculum, disseminating regulations, or awarding grants."

While it has no authority beyond advising and making recommendations, the board can "assess a sample" of Title VT activities to "ensure programs meet the purpose" of the act, according to a committee fact sheet.

That "leaves open the potential for intrusion into campuses' academic affairs through the power of sampling," contends an Association of American Universities (www.aau.edu) statement.

At a hearing on the measure before the subcommittee approved it, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also cited "intrusion into academic freedom" as a possible effect of the board's independence.

Hartle says the proposal developed from "a contentious ideological argument" that began shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. …

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