Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another Hearing Started Today: Temple University

A friend alerted me to this article, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the "academic freedom" at Temple University.

Posted on Tue, Jan. 10, 2006
Hearing into bias falls short of billing
The probe of professors said to inject politics into classes at Pa. public colleges drew just one student speaker.

Inquirer Staff Writer

Yesterday's hearing on academic freedom at Pennsylvania's public universities was hyped by conservative activists as a "historic moment," in which school administrators would finally be "called to account" in front of state legislators for allowing student "indoctrination and abuse" by leftist professors.

But the hearing at Temple University did not live up to that billing.

A professor scheduled to testify about alleged rampant liberal bias at Temple canceled. The sole student to appear before the legislative committee acknowledged he had never filed a formal grievance.

And Temple president David Adamany testified that in fact no student had made an official classroom bias complaint in at least five years, despite well-developed policies and procedures for doing so.

"If there are students out there who feel their rights are being abridged, they need to speak up," said Rep. Gib Armstrong (R., Lancaster). Armstrong is the conservative lawmaker who called for hearings and got them approved by the Pennsylvania House.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation to have held academic freedom hearings, but lawmakers in 19 other states have proposed some form of legislation designed to address alleged professorial bias. The hearings at Temple are the second of four scheduled by the state House Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education.

Many academics have condemned the movement, and Pennsylvania's hearings in particular, as a new form of McCarthyism that leaves professors with the impression the government is monitoring their lectures.

"Just as in the 1950s, right-wing forces are attempting to impose political tests on the faculty," Rachel DuPlessis, a Temple English professor, testified.

Lawmakers first heard from Adamany yesterday. Unlike many of his presidential counterparts, Adamany said he welcomed the hearing. He defended Temple's record, acknowledging only that the university could do more to "make sure that students know of their rights to appeal" when politics leaks inappropriately into classroom discussions.

Temple senior Logan Fisher, vice chairman of the school's College Republicans chapter, offered several vivid examples of what he considered classroom bias, alleging that a few professors vulgarly insulted President Bush in their lectures. Fisher also said a professor told him, "You're going to have a rough semester in this class," after Fisher disagreed with him over a foreign policy question.

Fisher also said he had spoken with many students who had similar experiences.

Asked why he and the other students never filed a formal complaint, Fisher said they feared retribution and felt their grievance would be ignored.

Democrats seemed convinced that the threat to student academic freedom had been overblown.

Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) said that "for us to pretend there is widespread abuse going on is problematic."

Rep. Dan Surra (D., Elk) called the hearings a "colossal waste of time and taxpayer money."

The hearings at Temple conclude today.

Now, is this a valuable way to spend our tax dollars?