Universities Examine Academic Freedom Policies

State Senator Larry Mumper, a republican from Marion, introduced an academic bill of rights in 2005. The bill would prohibit discrimination because of a student’s political, ideological, or religious beliefs.

The legislation has not seen further action because Ohio’s universities agreed to their own policy review.

That was good enough for Senator Mumper, but not for Barry Sheets the governmental affairs coordinator for the conservative Citizens for Community Values. Sheets says some sort of legislation is needed. And he says he supports the provisions of a bill just passed by the U-S House of Representatives, “What’s happening in HR 609 is insuring that there is academic freedom for the students who are attending these institutes of higher education so that they are able to express their viewpoint without fear of harassment or intimidation or for reprisals if their viewpoint does not conform to the official viewpoint or the viewpoint of the instructor of the class that they are taking.”

Officials at Ohio State say the university is in accord with nationally established policies. Provost Barbara Snyder said in a statement that OSU has ‘always prized freedom of thought and expression, and respect for multiple points of view.’

Meanwhile Kevin Griffith, a professor of English at Capital University does not believe the legislation is necessary, “If you try to legislate thought then you do not believe in free speech. Although it may be true that college faculty are for the most part ‘liberal,’ still there is no evidence that college faculty are brainwashing students with liberal ideology.”

OSU’s Snyder says the University will publicize its principles of free speech and intellectual diversity through various outlets.

The University says it has clearly defined procedures for students who believe they’ve experienced treatment inconsistent with OSU policy.