March 25, 2005

Is the ABOR language a fig leaf?

I've written before that Florida's House Bill 837 (our version of the David Horowitz ABOR) does not write into law any insulation of the curriculum from legislative meddling (such as the attempt to foist a chiropractic school onto Florida State last year). This Tuesday, the first committee hearing the bill recommended it on a party-line vote, and Students for Academic Freedom National Campus Director Sara Dogan wrote a glowing article about the event for FrontPage (Horowitz's online outlet).

Regardless of the wisdom of the ABOR in toto, it seems that to enshrine only a portion of it (that giving students the apparent standing to sue professors and universities), but not all of it, is only paying lip service to academic freedom. Is the flowery language only a fig leaf for intimidation of faculty? Let's test that:...

This evening, I wrote the following to Ms. Dogan, to see whether she'll stand up for the principles that her organization says it supports:

As national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, you must be aware of the full text of David Horowitz's ABOR, and I do not know if you have noticed the important differences between ABOR and House Bill 837 currently pending in the Florida legislature. HB 837 puts much of the BOR in the "whereas" clauses, especially one crucial bit about noninterference in curriculum matters, such as the use of state appropriations bills to affect the curriculum.

You may not be familiar, however, with the history of academic-freedom encroachments in Florida. There was last year's attempt by the legislature to force Florida State to create a chiropractic school regardless of the faculty's opinions on this, coming on the heels of the legislature forcing new graduate schools onto FSU and Florida A&M a few years before. I could list a number of other incidents, but this should be sufficient at least for now. This is precisely the type of meddling that the Horowitz language is supposed to bar, or so I assume.

Yet that language is not written into statute with HB 837. Regardless of what else we may agree or disagree with [sic—ouch], I hope you will agree with me that academic freedom requires that the legislature not interfere with the curriculum, and that a bill that does nothing to stop such practices is far from a true protection of academic freedom. For that reason, I urge you to distance yourself from HB 837 as the bill's language currently stands.

We'll see how she responds. Listen to this article
Posted in Academic freedom on March 25, 2005 11:20 PM |