Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Free Exchange on Campus Coalition

I got an interesting email, inviting us to take part in some activism. Are we interested?

My name is Kendra Wobbema; I work with the Free Exchange on Campus
Coalition, a network of faculty, student and civil liberties organizations
working to stop restrictions on what students are able to learn and faculty
able to teach in higher education. Specifically, we're working to stop the
so-called "Intellectual Diversity" bill being pushed in legislatures around
the country. This bill, similar to David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of
Restrictions," would stifle the free exchange of ideas on campus and
severely damage education for students.

This year, as you may have heard, members of the state legislature have
tabled a bill that would enact these restrictions in Virginia (HB 1643).
Proponents of this legislation are arguing that the biggest problem facing
higher education today is that students are incapable of being exposed to
new and controversial ideas in the classroom without being indoctrinated by
them. They claim that there is widespread indoctrination and discrimination
against conservative students in Virginia colleges, and that faculty are
acting inappropriately by bringing politics into the classroom. They also
claim that students don't have adequate recourse to deal with this problem.
Without proof of these claims, they're pushing for a bill that would
restrict what faculty are able to teach, presenting a tremendous threat to
the free exchange of ideas between students and professors. In effect, it
would place restrictions on what faculty could teach and what subjects were
open to debate in the classroom.

Across the country, when these proposals are introduced there is little to
no evidence of any problem, certainly none warranting legislation or
restrictions on what ideas college students can be exposed to and how
faculty can teach. In fact, the one state that has held formal hearings
into these claims, Pennsylvania, found that legislation was not necessary
and that academic freedom violations in the state were rare.

We know that there are bigger problems facing education in Virginia, and
that restricting the education students are exposed to can only hurt higher
education. To keep this bill from being re-introduced and passed in
Virginia, we're working with higher education organizations, students,
faculty and administrators to make sure the legislature understands what
actually happens in college classrooms, that it's hearing opposition to
these proposals, and that the media is covering our side of this debate. If
you or your student/faculty organization is interested in being a part of a
coalition in opposition to this "intellectual diversity" legislation, please
let me know. There are varying levels of involvement, from signing a letter
to gathering widespread support on your campus. I will be in Virginia April
9-13 and would be happy to schedule a meeting to further discuss your

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kendra Wobbema
Free Exchange on Campus Coalition
(312) 291-0349 x218 (office)
(310) 995-7219 (cell)

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