Pa. legislators visit Temple in search of ideological bias
|President David Adamany spoke before state lawmakers last week regarding alleged liberal political bias at college campuses in Pennsylvania. The Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education, a body created by House Resolution 177 last July, conducted two days of public hearings in the Student Center on Jan. 9 and 10.
State lawmakers came to Temple last week to continue their investigation of alleged liberal political bias at college campuses in Pennsylvania.
The Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education, a body created by House Resolution 177 in July, conducted two days of public hearings in the Student Center on Jan. 9 and 10. The committee is charged with examining what HR 177’s authors called “the imposition of ideological orthodoxy” at Pennsylvania’s state-related and state-owned institutions of higher education.
Lawmakers heard statements from President David Adamany, Temple faculty members, Temple undergraduate Logan Fisher and leading national voices on both sides of the issue, including David Horowitz, a conservative activist. Horowitz has led a national campaign to bring an “academic bill of rights” to college campuses in order to fight what he believes is pervasive liberal indoctrination of students and intimidation of conservatives. His efforts have been opposed by educators and faculty groups.
Adamany’s testimony opened the hearings.
“Some have suggested that the creation of [the committee] and its conduct of hearings is a threat to academic freedom,” Adamany said. “I do not share that view. Instead, it is my belief that all subjects are appropriate for discussion by the elected representatives of the people.”
After affirming that “classrooms cannot be used as pulpits,” Adamany outlined Temple’s policies on academic freedom, student rights and grievance procedures.
Adamany acknowledged that Temple could do a better job of helping students understand their rights, and that the University should consider unifying its many college-specific grievance policies.
“All of that said … we have reviewed our records and we do not find any instances in which students have complained about inappropriate intrusion of political advocacy by teachers in their courses,” Adamany testified. “Nor have we found instances of complaints by students that they were improperly graded because of the views set forth in their courses.”
After hearing statements supportive of faculty from Robert M. O’Neil, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression; Temple professor Rachel DuPlessis and Faculty Senate president Jane Evans (as read by professor Jeff Solow), the committee heard an opposing point of view from Logan Fisher, a senior business major and vice chairman of Temple College Republicans.
Fisher, who said he spoke for himself and other students who were “afraid to testify for fear of repercussions,” testified that some Temple instructors belittle conservative views.
When asked by committee members why neither he nor other students had registered a grievance, Fisher said that the professor in question “dismissed” his opinions, so complaints wouldn’t help.
Rep. Gibson C. Armstrong, the Lancaster County Republican who led the push for HR 177, told Fisher that students who “feel their rights are being abridged need to speak up … or quit complaining.”
The second day of hearings featured testimony from Temple Association of University Professionals president William W. Cutler III; William E. Scheuerman, president of United University Professions; Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni; Temple English professor Steven Zelnick; and Horowitz.
Zelnick, a former vice provost for undergraduate studies at Temple, described the “one-sidedness of [the Temple faculty] in their ideological commitments and a growing intolerance of competing views.”
When questioned, Zelnick said that he had not acted to publicize or curb such imbalances during his tenure as an administrator.
Horowitz claimed Temple has failed to enforce or make students aware of its academic freedom policies. He went on to condemn the University’s intellectual heritage, first-year writing and summer reading programs for their “ideological agenda” (criticisms that were rebutted by Temple faculty members Susan Wells and Daniel T. Tompkins).
Republican lawmakers in many states have taken up Horowitz’s call for an academic bill of rights, but their efforts have yet to yield any legislation. Critics in Pennsylvania, including Democrats on the Select Committee, have called the investigations a “solution in search of a problem” and a “waste of time” — comments that were repeated last week.
The committee’s visit, which was covered by The Chronicle of Higher Education and insidehighered.com, followed similar hearings at the University of Pittsburgh in November. Another round of hearings is scheduled for March at a location to be announced. The deadline for the committee’s final report is June 30, with a provision for an extension to Nov. 30.
- By Hillel J. Hoffmann