Michigan State University and the Academic Bill of Rights
24 August 2004

FrontPage magazine.com :: Making Headway on Campus by Lansing State Journal

For General background:
Google Search: Academic Bill of Rights

From the article:

Debra Nails, a philosophy professor at MSU, said the legislation "is not written by people who know what our job is."

"Anytime something from outside the university, whether it is big business or government or the church, starts to set the academic agenda, students are in trouble and the free society is jeopardized," she said.

Ms. Nails teaches at a public university created by the democratic government of the State of Michigan. MSU was originally an agricultural college with the specific, government established agenda of disseminating knowledge of modern farming techniques and conducting agricultural research. The government also established "normal colleges" for the training of teachers, and so on. Indeed, an agenda of sorts was expressed in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Those words are inscribed above the main entrance to Angell Hall at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

I don't happen to support the Academic Bill of Rights. It contains some good ideas, but they are the kind of "good ideas" that don't make good laws. On the other hand, the problems the ABoR attempts to address are serious. The root of those problems is this: Universities have decided that it is their job to transform society. That transformational agenda is reflected in hiring and admissions decisions, curriculum choices, staff training programs and student orientations.

Like the Bush administration, our universities are dominated by a spirit of imperial hubris. The neo-cons have the overtly stated agenda of transforming the nations of the Middle East into democracies. Universities, in pursuing their own visions of "democracy," subject their students to ethnic studies courses, speech codes, political harassment and even psychological experiences that border on brainwashing.

Ms. Nails' expectation of total autonomy is absurd. It is perfectly reasonable for the public, through its elected representatives, to insist that publicly funded institutions serve a reasonable public purpose. If Professor Nails wishes to find out who is truly jeopardizing our free society, all she has to do is look around her.

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