Recently, students at a Colorado university were told to write an essay on why President Bush (search) is a war criminal. When one student wrote instead that Saddam Hussein was the war criminal, she received a failing grade.
In fall, 2002, at University of California at Berkeley, the course description for "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance" warned, "conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections."
At Gonzaga University, officials sent a disciplinary letter to College Republicans who posted fliers around campus promoting a speech by David Flynn (search), author of “Why the Left Hates America.” University officials alleged that use of the word "hate" is "discriminatory" and forced the students to modify the flier.
While political correctness on campus may be old news, as a soon-to-be college freshman, I find stories like these disturbing. I am aware that I am embarking on what many consider to be literally a "liberalizing" experience, one that produces young adults more inclined to agree with Democratic policies than Republican ones. But there are also critics who claim campuses have become leftist propaganda machines that restrict free speech, marginalize conservatism and censor honest political debate who have plenty of evidence to support that view.
I imagine what it would be like to be a student at the University of Connecticut, where "inconsiderate jokes," "stereotyping," and even "inappropriately directed laughter" have been banned. Or to be the Cal Poly student found guilty of "disruption of a campus event" after posting a flier advertising a speech by conservative African-American author Mason Weaver.
The crime? Some students found the poster "offensive."
Throughout the United States, universities have clearly violated students' First Amendment rights in the name of multicultural tolerance. Additionally, many colleges require students to read leftist and socialist texts without offering books by conservative authors offering opposing viewpoints -- a policy that has been criticized as indoctrination.
Fortunately, students and constitutional rights organizations are fighting back. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (search), has successfully sued a number of colleges whose speech codes violate students' right to free speech.
The real solution to the problem, however, is not litigation. David Horowitz, founder of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, has recently proposed an academic bill of rights (available at Students For Academic Freedom) that would remove partisan politics from the classroom and encourage open debate on various policy issues.
Critics call the document a right-wing attempt to pack colleges with conservative professors, but a reading of the bill proves otherwise. One clause, for instance, stipulates: "No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs."
In an article that appeared in “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” Horowitz argued, "The bill thus protects all faculty members -- left-leaning critics of the war in Iraq as well as right-leaning proponents of it, for example -- from being penalized for their political beliefs."
The Academic Bill of Rights is based on concepts found in the “General Report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” a document adopted by the American Association of University Professors in 1915 that is rarely enforced today. The General Report declares that human knowledge is a boundless pursuit of truth, that all ideas are open to challenge and that no party or intellectual faction has a monopoly on wisdom.
Horowitz's bill seeks to uphold these values, asserting that academic freedom is dependent upon the protection of students' and professors' intellectual independence from legislative or institutional interference.
The report explicitly prohibits the left-wing propagandizing found on college campuses today, cautioning faculty against "taking unfair advantage of the student's immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher's own opinions" before the student is exposed to other points of view.
Among other things, the Academic Bill of Rights would prohibit professors from grading students on the basis of their political or religious beliefs, encourage the presentation of a variety of political opinions, demand equal allocation of funds for student political activities and condemn the obstruction of invited guest speakers and literature handouts.
Students and free speech advocates have already made significant progress in their defense of the First Amendment on campus. The Undergraduate Student Council at Brown University, where registered Democratic professors outnumber Republicans 30-1, unanimously passed an academic freedom resolution based on Horowitz's bill.
Furthermore, at Columbia University, where a professor recently wished for "a million Mogadishus" in Iraq -- referring to the murder of 18 U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 -- a committee has been formed to address free speech and indoctrination issues.
The controversy over bias in academia has even made it to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, where lawmakers have taken up a legislative version of the bill. The Senate is expected to follow suit.
All these are good signs for students and professors across America, who should value intellectual diversity over partisanship and political indoctrination. The Academic Bill of Rights would protect all members of higher education, regardless of political or religious identity. To oppose the adoption of this document is to oppose the free exchange of ideas, a tenet of democracy that Americans have defended for more than two centuries.
Scott Kahn was an intern with Foxnews.com this summer.