Regulating Academia

Larry Mumper, a state Senator from Ohio, is afraid of college professors: Mumper, a Republican, said many professors undermine the values of their students because "80 percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists" who attempt to indoctrinate students. So his solution, in typical conservative fashion, is to control them via legislative syllabus: Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose." Of course, this sort of thing happens all the time. I also wonder who gets to determine what a "legitimate pedagogical purpose is," and what "controversial subject matter is." Controversial subject matter is particularly dangerous to a college campus, because the last thing we need at institutions of higher learning is that no one is challenged by anything "controversial." After all, throughout history, new ideas have been welcomed with open arms.

(F) Faculty and instructors shall be free to pursue and discuss their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, but they shall make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own through classroom discussion or dissemination of written materials, Once again, I wonder who determines what "serious scholarly viewpoints" are. I mean, there is no mechanism for peer review in academic institutions now. I guess the state needs to step in to make sure that Mumper's views are deemed "serious" and "scholarly," because those evil liberals, in cahoots with the Communists, control academia entirely.

This bill has nothing to do with "academic freedom." This is, instead, an attempt by the government of Ohio to control the ideological content of what is being taught at its universities. Among other things, it also appears to be an attempt to destroy affirmative action and allow bogus Heritage foundation type scholarship to sit beside work that has been thoroughly peer reviewed.

It is amazing how often conservatives decry "relativists" until it is time for their views to undergo peer review. Then, all views must be presented side by side because, after all, everything is just opinion, and as valid as everything else, right?

Tags: Ideology (all tags)



silly and not so silly
The silly part is obvious.

The not so silly part is the campaign by conservatives to steer funding towards conservative causes by convincing donors that their money will go to liberal commy pinkos with gay husbands if they don't make their contribution to some specifically "academic" entity like ...the Mercatus Institite.

Chris thanks for writing about this stuff. You're absolutely right to emphasize peer review and faculty governance as what they are -- democracy in action. THats what the right really hates about academics -- we are our own bosses, many of us without even a union they can blame it on.

And the results speak for themselves -- where after all does these conservatives send their kids for college? Places with strong research programs and traditions of faculty governance Yale and U of T.

by desmoulins 2005-01-28 08:08AM | 0 recs
Let's make sure frats get rid of their liberal biases during rush week.
by CentrismIsForLosers 2005-01-28 09:25AM | 0 recs
creationism, too?
I'm guessing this guy would call evolution an liberal ideology, too.
by benchcoat 2005-01-28 09:39AM | 0 recs
Academic Regulation
What it is it with the lazy Majority here in Ohio and its fascination with copying failed ideas from Colorado?  First the forced budgeting concept now this.  Oh well, maybe they, like their colleagues in Colorado, will ride this train to legislative defeat.

Personally I think this legislation has ZERO chance of being adopted as currently drafted.  Before you say "oh my poor naive little friend, this is the State that not only banned gay marriage but anything that attempted to approximate gay marriage", I would say that it is precisely this over reaching hubris which will doom this legislation.  One thing that is easy to miss is that this applies to private institutions as well as public institutions.  Not even David Horowitz believes that the academic "bill of rights" should apply to all private institutions.  With Antioch and Oberlin (among others) being located within the confines of our cozy little state it is easy to see why conservatives would salivate at the opportunity to stick it to those commies.  The fact of the matter is those institutions and other "liberal" institutions could adopt the required language on their campuses if forced to.  On the other hand, could God's Bible College (for example) commit to hire faculty without regard to the faith of the potential hire?  Could the Josephinum (or any seminary) commit to have its faculty refrain from using its courses for purposes of religious indoctrination?

Horowitz has said that he views the introduction of legislation on this topic as a means to opening dialogue with University administrators.  I think that such a dialogue with Horowitz or legislators should be rejected out of hand (because the discussion will continue until the Universities' admit their sins and completely capitulate) and instead focus should be turned to defeat of this imminently defeatable proposal. (Note, I think there are merits to the language of the proposal and I think schools should not turn a blind eye to actual discrimination by professors toward students or colleagues but much of what these people cite as persecution does not strike me as such.)

So here is my road map (if I had a say) to how to defeat this for the public institutions:

  1. Make sure that the language relating to private institutions remains.  This may be tough to do because it will be so easy to get rid of.  

  2.  Get some prominent faculty and or Trustees to come out and talk to about how it is unnecessary because the campuses already have policies in place to deal with these issues.  (In Colorado, the author of the legislation actually contacted the institutions in advance to see what policies were in place.  Such approach is unneccessary in the land of one party rule.)  In addition, these faculty members or trustees should talk about how it will be difficult to attract or retain quality professors when other institutions you are trying to compete with don't have the same perceived problems.

Finally, and this is somewhat unrelated, much of this grows out of Horowitz's and others' contention (quite right I suspect) that "liberals" are disproportionally represented in academia.  I think that the single surest way to increase the number and percentage of conservatives in academia is to significantly increase the compensation of faculty members.

My apologies for the length of the post

by comotion 2005-01-28 09:41AM | 0 recs
I'm not sure... this isn't an attempt to legislate content.  Who exactly would enfore this rule?  As a music professor, would I not be allowed to teach works of visual art?  Or better yet, would I be denied being able to teach controversial works of visual art in my music classes?

I am so exhausted by the continual criticism of so called liberal bias in academia.  I will freely admit that most of my colleagues are Democrats.  However, rarely does politics enter in to the classroom.  This may not be the case in other departments, but then again, we are dealing with adults (by this I mean the students) not young blank slates that are unable to form their own opinion.  I wouldn't send my kid to Bob Jones, why is it a big deal if there are a bunch of liberals at Berkeley?

by twomblyk 2005-01-28 09:44AM | 0 recs
Doesnt this infringe on the first amendment?  Or are professors at public universities already restricted becuase they are government employees?  (Sorry i am no legal expert)
by phemfrog 2005-01-28 09:55AM | 0 recs
why aren't faculty organized?
Don't professors have a legitimate collective interest in maintaining uncensored freedom of thought?

Many of them spend much of their time wishing students were less apathetic. How bout some of them get off their butts and do a little organizing?

by srolle 2005-01-28 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: why aren't faculty organized?
Actually they are.  The AAUP (American Association of University Professors -- I think that is right) is basically a "union" for professors but it does not have chapters everywhere.  Actually they have been arguing with Horowitz about this for years now because he takes their statements about academic freedom and tries to use it against them.
by comotion 2005-01-28 10:39AM | 0 recs
They want little business regulations but Social regulations are a must.  What's next?  The number of times we can have sex in a week?  The number of times we can use a bathroom in a day?  
by yitbos96bb 2005-01-28 11:40AM | 0 recs
On the flip side...
You have 3 options

  1.  Let the Republicans regulate what content can be covered in school regarding political content.  IE math teachers have no business talking politics at length in their class they are math teachers.

  2.  Stop regulating religious content specifically evolution vs creation where only one view is legal in schools but the other view has cartblanche to say  it is right.

  3.  Hope that now that the republicans are in power they will play nicer than we did.  If you look at this from their perspective its just playing by the same rules...We regulate conservative religious speech they want to regulate liberal athiest speech.
by donkeykong 2005-01-28 12:36PM | 0 recs
How do you work this thing?
I wonder what would constitute "controversial matter  that has no relation to their subject of study" in my course, "Weapons of Mass Destruction"?
by DrSpiffy 2005-01-28 04:05PM | 0 recs
While They're At It...
As long as we've got conservatives favoring gummint regulation in order to provide balanced content, maybe this would be the proper time to reintroduce the idea of the Fairness Doctrine?  
by Carpe Datum 2005-01-29 07:02AM | 0 recs
I want them to over-reach
I WANT them to get Soviet. I want us to look like the little guy, under-funded by corporations and big business, but with the heart of Tom Joad. That's what they had last time: that sense they were being prosecuted every time they weren't allowed to go into the gay part of their town and intimidate people, or go into Borders and tell them to get 'smut' off the shelves or etc.

But for now:
can someone local to this joker get him on camera, ask him where HIS ass went to college. If he went, then why ain't HE a liberal? genetics? No, he was allowed to think for himself; college just gives you the tools to think and the rest is up to you (pity many don't take it further).
if he DIDN'T go to college, then what the hell is he talking about and how would he know anyways?

by bigdogjunior1963 2005-01-29 09:36AM | 0 recs
I'm in the midst of a fight against these folks.. Trinity College in Hartford, CT. I'm the student government president and we're in charge of legitimizing student groups by approving their constitutions and giving them funding. Thanks for putting the word out about Horowitz's minions. A group has requested funding from the Student Government that calls itself Students For Academic Freedom - they advocate for the passage through the faculty and student government senate exactly the same legislation as in Ohio. We need a simple majority in our senate to reject their funding, and we've got the votes.

These guys specialize in provoking professors to respond with their personal political opinions and then embarrass the institution through their 'biased' teaching. You might have heard of student supporting this group bring video cameras into the classroom and hiding them while they try to get the professor to say something political. Like other posters have said, allowing the government to regulate the content of the classroom is an ugly, anti-American practice. We're hoping that Horowitz decides it's time to come after a student government! Usually he just goes after the instituion that's impregnating the student body with liberal ideology. Now it's the students protecting our right to a good education. Bring it on, Horowitz!

Check out his pyscho website at

by IsaacGol 2005-01-29 12:13PM | 0 recs


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