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By Scott Tibbs, December 22, 2004

Academic Bill of Rights in Indiana?

Students for Academic Freedom is looking to have the Indiana Legislature pass a version of their "Academic Bill of Rights". Before I comment further, here's a look at the primary voting records of Indiana University's Political Science Department:

Do they do the Macarena, too?
Poli-Sci Department Dances to the Democrat Beat

                          96-95-94   92-91-90   88-87-86   84-83
Edward Carmines                           --- ? ---
Elinor Ostrom               --- no primary voting record ---
Jack Bielasiak              -DD       D--         D-D       D-    
Norman Furniss              DDD       D--         DDR       D-    
Russell Hanson              -D-       D--         DDD       D-
Iliya Harik                 D--       ---         DDD       D-
Jeffrey Hart                -DD       ---         ---       D-
Marjorie Hershey            DDD       D-D         DDD       D-
Francis Hoole               ---       ---         DD-       D-
Jeffrey Isaac               DD-       -D-         D--       --
Gregory Kasza               --- No primary voting record ---
Leroy Rieselbach            -D-       D--         D-D       DD
William Thompson                          --- ? ---
Timothy Tilton              DDD       DDD         DDD       DD
Gerald Wright, Jr.          ---       ---         ---       -D
Patrick O'Meara             --- registered but no record ---
Eugene McGregor (SPEA)      DDD       DDD         D--       DD


Kenneth Bickers             -RD       ---          ---       --
Lawrence Hanks              DD-       ---          ---       --
Michael McGinnis                           --- ? ---
Karen Rasler                               --- ? ---
Jean Robinson               -DD       D--          ---       --   
Dina Spechler               D--       ---          ---       
Richard Stryker             -D-       -D-          DDD       D-
John Williams                              --- ? ---

I graduated from Indiana University in 1998, and I never really had a problem (even as an outspoken conservative activist and columnist for the student newspaper) with professors that lean Left. I even took a "Sexual Politics" class from the Gender Studies department and got an "A".

From my observations, the problem at Indiana University is Leftist bias in the administration, not with the professors. I'm not denying that many IU professors are Leftists (as can be expected at a large state university) but as far as I know IU does not have a problem with professors allowing their political views to influence how they treat students.

The administration, though, is another matter. Just last year, former IU Chancellor Sharon Brehm denounced IU professor Eric Rasmusen because of opinions expressed on his blog. This is just one example of the administration playing politics with the business of running a university. The administration decided to apply stricter standards to the Genocide Awareness Project than other First Amendment activity. In 1997, a student group known as IN was "investigated" by the GLBT anti-harassment team because their flyers were "offensive" to some. The people behind IN never revealed themselves, but since their free speech was met with threat of disciplinary action, I cannot blame them.

Do we need this particular legislation in Indiana? Until I see the bill, I cannot comment on whether the Legislature should pass it. It is not a bad idea to at least encourage universities to not discriminate on the basis of political belief. There is little doubt in my mind, however, that the Legislature should keep a close eye on university administrators (especially at IU) and make sure they know that violating students' First Amendment rights will not be tolerated.