|Colleges and universities in America have considered themselves sanctuaries for free thought and expression. In recent years, as the country has grown more politically conservative, conservative students have begun to challenge what they see as a liberal bias on college and university campuses across the country. Conservatives' attempts to assert their rights to are seen by others as an infringement on their liberties.|
A weekend gathering of conservative students at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. On campuses across the U.S., conservative students are sounding alarms, and accusing liberal professors of infringing on their right to free speech in the classroom and on campuses.
Alexander Bozmoski organized an event called "Take Back Georgetown Day" to show solidarity among conservative students. "In a philosophy class of 30 students on public policy, if you speak up with a pro-life stance then you have a professor and 30 abortion activists breathing down your neck for the next 30 minutes. It is an uncomfortable situation if you don't have the confidence to handle it."
Students for Academic Freedom, a national advocacy group funded by conservative activist David Horowitz, has been trying to push an "Academic Bill of Rights" on campuses and in state legislatures.
Sarah Doagan is the National Campus Director for Students for Academic Freedom. She told us, "The problem is that professors use their classrooms as political soap boxes to proselytize their views. To advocate instead of educate in the classroom."
The Academic Bill of Rights states, among other things, that political and religious beliefs should not be a factor when considering professors for tenure. And that students will be graded solely on their reasoned answers and knowledge of subjects, not political and religious beliefs.
Jonathan Knight is the Director of Academic Freedom and Tenure with the American Association of College Professors. He thinks the Academic Bill of Rights is a bad idea.
"We think it is wrong and wrong headed,” says Mr. Knight. “We have spoken out strongly against it basically because it would substitute for the judgments of academics the judgments of politicians, but what constitutes balance in the classroom and balance in the evaluation of students and balance in the appointment of faculty to colleges and universities."
Katherine Boyle, a Georgetown student, and director of political affairs for the D.C. College Republicans, thinks the Academic Bill of Rights is needed at Georgetown University.
"In some circumstances if you're a little bit too ideological, professors will see you as a threat to them. They are the professor; they have gone through 20 years of schooling. They know what they are talking about. So why should some college student come in and tell them that they are wrong? Or say that they disagree with them?"
The debate over academic freedom has reached more than a dozen state legislatures around the country that fund public colleges and universities. So far, the academic bill of rights idea has not received that much support, because most state legislatures respect the autonomy of universities to set academic policies and procedures.