The Academic Bill of Rights to Restore Diversity of Thought on College Campuses

By Phil Orenstein
President of Queens Village Republican Club

The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT were held accountable for the “rampant antisemitism” on their campuses. During the December congressional investigation of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, the sharp line of questioning by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik exposed the evil and moral rot on the campuses of these elite universities and ultimately two of the presidents resigned. Their pathetic answers on whether calling for “genocide of Jews” constituted bullying and harassment in their campus codes of conduct, exposed their utter lack of concern and arrogance, and it’s a good thing they were forced out.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  The intellectual and moral rot on our college campuses is much more deep seated than college presidents or boards of directors. The faculty are the real villains. It’s the professors who destroyed higher education in America as a place of free thought and turned these institutions into centers of indoctrination. They are the ones who must be held accountable for suppressing free speech and diversity of opinion, in the pursuit of social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Twenty years ago, academic freedom was essentially sacrosanct. But not today. There’s no more respect for academic freedom. Today professors, mainly in Humanities and Social Sciences, have become radicalized and practice indoctrination in the classroom for political and social change. Their mission is to produce social justice warriors. Israel is now designated the settler-colonialist oppressor in the social justice playbook, and the Palestinians are the oppressed victims. In their playbook they must stand in solidarity with the oppressed and join the crusade to overthrow the oppressor, which is why antisemitism now is raging out-of-control on campus. We saw it in the antisemitic riot at Hillcrest High School where a student mob attacked a Jewish teacher who was seen on social media attending a pro-Israel rally. We saw it in the pro-Hamas protests blocking traffic and cursing Israel, where many of the protestors were college students and faculty. We see it in the rise of antisemitic incidents on college campuses where Jewish students worry about their personal safety. We see the erasure of Israel from Middle Eastern maps in the classroom. It’s not just Jewish students – it’s Republicans, it’s patriotic Americans, it’s anyone who becomes the target of leftist indoctrination.

In an environment that is supposed to protect freedom of speech and religious belief, Jewish students are scared to express their beliefs, and other students with differences of opinion are terrified as well. Professors used to protect diversity of viewpoint, as they do for racial, gender, and every other form of diversity. But today if you disagree with the teacher’s agenda, you are ostracized, not only by the teacher, but by the students as well, and the teacher permits this public humiliation. You would also suffer a lower grade if you express a different opinion. Professors are not there to teach, but to indoctrinate. Over the last 20 years, this radicalization of the classroom has spread to public high schools and lower grades. Like an unchecked cancer, it has spread and killed off healthy diversity of thought in the classroom. The vast majority of faculty identify as liberal or far left, and in recent published statistics, “Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of nearly 9 to 1 among college professors.”

Twenty years ago, academic freedom was alive and well, and there was a true academic freedom movement spreading throughout America, to restore intellectual diversity and combat indoctrination in the classroom. It was called the Academic Bill of Rights championed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. It’s a bill of rights for legislative action to protect the fundamental freedoms of students and faculty guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution from being infringed on college campuses. In an academic environment, the bill protects freedom of political viewpoint and religious beliefs of students and faculty, sets up a grievance process, and holds violators accountable for abusing these fundamental rights. Further it states that students have the right to a learning environment where they have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion, be graded on the basis of their course work, not discriminated against based on their political or religious beliefs, that faculty shall be hired, fired or granted tenure on the basis of competence and knowledge of their field of study, not on the basis of political views or religious beliefs.

The bill was introduced as legislation in some two dozen state legislatures, including New York State, and a few states adopted a form of the Academic Bill of Rights. In one notable example, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, in 2005 passed a resolution based on the principles of the Academic Bill of Rights. The resolution created a Committee on Academic Freedom which held hearings at state universities and to investigate violations of academic freedom.  

As a result, students were emboldened to stand up for their right of free thought and expression on campus, and a handful of universities adopted the principles of the bill for the first time guaranteeing students and faculty academic rights as their official policy.

It’s time for all city councils and state legislatures to enact the Academic Bill of Rights in order to protect the fundamental rights of students and faculty. Getting rid of college presidents will not change the deep-rooted radical communist orthodoxy on campus today. As stated in their mission statements, every institution of higher learning has a duty to promote intellectual diversity and critical thinking on campus. They clearly affirm that the ideas of all students and faculty members should be treated with respect, and fairly represented on campus in the pursuit of truth. The classroom is not a soapbox for professors to promote their own point of view. The time is now to practice what they preach.  Every elected official and candidate for local or state office must sponsor the Academic Bill of Rights in their city councils and state legislatures.

America’s universities were once great. According to a Carnegie Corporation statement, “For most of the 20th century, the U.S. had the best higher education system in the world.” People came from all over the world to pursue their studies here, and they produced outstanding graduates and future leaders. But it’s a sad state of affairs what they have become – centers of communist indoctrination. We demand the free institutions of higher learning we used to have, not education systems modeled after Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, or Maoist China.  We determine to bring back the free and finest institutions that were the pinnacle of American principles and values.

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