Have you been told that if you are a conservative thinker you should seek another section of a class? Have you been asked to receive psychological treatment by a professor because you are “pro-American”? Have you been mired in academic kangaroo courts, run out of town by stalkers or threatened by physical violence because you disagreed with the opinions of your professor?
California Senator Bill Morrow believes these instances occur too often on California college campuses and is proposing a bill that would solve the problem.
On April 20, the California State Senate is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 5, a “Student Bill of Rights.” While its author, Senator Bill Morrow, argues that the bill will “help protect students in our public education system from harassment and abuse,” opponents believe that, if approved, the bill would define how curriculum is taught in the California college and university systems.
Professor David Rubiales, Yuba College history professor and President of the American Association of University Professors, California Conference, believes Senate Bill 5 is mistitled. Instead of seeking to protect students and their rights, the bill, according to Rubiales, seeks to undermine the authority and knowledge of professors.
“If this bill passes,” said Rubiales, “classes are going to become very dull. Academic freedom is what gives vibrancy to the study of ideas in the classroom.”
In an open letter to The Prospector, Senator Morrow accuses professors of discriminating against students with grading practices and says that instances of classroom abuse are only “the tip of the iceberg.” Morrow accuses professors and colleges of victimizing students with “trumped up charges and campus kangaroo courts,” and believes students are even “run out of town by stalkers and physical violence.”
Hidden in Morrow’s bill are proposed regulations about what professors can and cannot teach their students. The bill states that it seeks “the protection of students from the imposition of any orthodoxy of a political, religious, or ideological nature,” and it mandates that “teachers should not take unfair advantage of a student’s immaturity by indoctrinating him or her with the teacher’s own opinions.”
“Put aside for the moment that Senator Morrow is accusing all college students of being so immature that they are helpless before the opinions of their instructors,” commented Professor Brian Jukes, President of the Yuba Community College District Academic Senate, “he is essentially trying to strip all professors of their voice, dismissing their informed judgment as mere opinion.”
Professor Jukes also pointed out that Yuba College Board Policy prohibits such restrictions on its professors. Yuba College Board Policy 4030 states, “When academic employees are performing their assigned responsibilities, they shall be free to express personal opinions and pursue scholarly, literary, and/or artistic endeavors.”
“We have a right to express personal opinions,” said Jukes. “That is what Morrow calls ‘indoctrination.’ His entire argument is predicated on assumptions of students’ immaturity and their supposed inability to distinguish fact from opinion.”
Another problem with the bill that opponents point to is its mandate that professors allow students “to examine other opinions upon matters in question” before expecting students to draw a conclusion. An extreme case would be the Holocaust. If a history professor teaches that the Nazi party killed thousands of Jews in World War II, he would then have to introduce arguments that there was no Holocaust at all before expecting his students to draw a conclusion.
According to Morrow’s bill, a student needs “an opportunity fairly to examine” differing opinions “before a student has sufficient knowledge and ripeness of judgment.”
In his letter to The Prospector, Senator Morrow also attacks the American Association of University Professors, accusing them of abandoning their principles that universities and colleges are “for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole.”
In reply, AAUP California Conference President Rubiales said that this bill is crossing the line in its attack on university and college professors.
If students wish to voice their opinions on this matter, they should write their legislators. To find your representative in the California Senate, log onto www.sen.ca.gov. Students may also wish to log onto campus-monitoring web sites, such as Noindoctrination.org and www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.