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Major Group Of Scholars Calls For Universities To Protect Intellectual Freedom On Campus

A new statement, released from the National Association of Scholars — which describes itself as "a network of scholars and citizens united by our commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education" — vows to fight for intellectual freedom on university campuses and calls on Congress to punish schools that fail to protect free speech on campus. Outside organizations, including the California-based Claremont Institute, were instrumental in helping the National Association of Scholars craft its statement.

The statement reads, in relevant part:

Intellectual freedom is the anvil on which great debates are hammered out. It is the forge of civilization. It is the fire in which we burn away the fallacies in the raw ore of ideas. ...

Many colleges discriminate against religious and other student groups, preventing them from organizing on campus, withholding funds from mandatory student activity fees, and denying the use of campus facilities.

Coupled with bias response teams, trigger warnings, and safe spaces, these policies teach students to obey the doctrines of political correctness, rather than to search boldly for the truth. ...

Congress and the President must work together to ensure that the Higher Education Act, currently up for reauthorization, builds on the President’s executive order by holding colleges accountable when they do not respect intellectual freedom. ...

The Higher Education Act must cease rewarding public colleges for violating the First Amendment. Public institutions with restrictive speech zones and speech codes, discriminatory treatment of religious student groups, and other policies and practices that violate the First Amendment must be stripped of eligibility for federal student loans and grants. The enforcement of such penalties must comply with all existing law. ...

[W]ithout intellectual freedom, college is not a good investment. It is an empty forge and a cold furnace, where ideas are left to rust. Other reforms may bring the cost of college down, but we must better protect free inquiry in order to bring the quality of college up.

We call on Congress to cease subsidizing unlawful behavior by public colleges and universities, and to protect freedom of speech on college campuses.

According to The College Fix, Texas, South Dakota, and Kentucky are among those states that have, in recent years, passed similar legislation such as "declaring outdoor spaces public forums and requiring universities to publish reports on how they are fostering intellectual diversity."

Stanley Kurtz, who signed the National Association of Scholars statement and is a prolific writer in the area of intellectual freedom on university campuses, lamented the institutional reticence of the Republican Party in addressing this issue, earlier this week in National Review:

Free speech in the academy is fading fast. The condition of our colleges and universities is becoming a serious concern for a great many Americans, certainly including conservatives. Yet GOP politicians have forgotten that Ronald Reagan won and held the governorship of California on this issue, which is every bit as prominent today as it was in the late sixties and early seventies when Reagan ran. The public overwhelmingly favors action to protect free speech on campus, yet congressional Republicans have been AWOL on the issue right through the height of the crisis. Yes, they’ve held hearings, but to no legislative effect.

 
 
 

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