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NEA on Academic Freedom

NEA opposes proposals such as the so-called "Academic Bill of Rights" that would chill free speech and academic freedom on college campuses.

  • The quality and diversity of American higher education institutions flourish because the federal government, through the Higher Education Act, has focused on ensuring the greatest level of access for all students while abiding by a principle of nonintervention in the areas of curriculum and teaching.

  • The so-called "Academic Bill of Rights" movement seeks to amend the Higher Education Act to make unnecessary, ideologically driven changes under the guise of further protections for students against purported, unproven bias by faculty.

  • Colleges and universities already have sufficient policies and procedures to ensure the quality of education while guaranteeing the rights of students and faculty alike, including tenure and due process policies to protect academic freedom, statements of student rights and responsibilities, and student grievance procedures.

  • Current law already has a provision addressing "Protection of Student Speech and Association Rights." This provision seeks to protect individual students from discrimination due to activities outside the classroom involving controversial issues or organizations.

  • States have declined to implement similar provisions. Over the last four years, 28 states have considered legislation aimed at correcting an alleged "political bias" at their state colleges and universities. After examining the evidence and assessing existing institutional policies, no state enacted this legislation, regardless of which party held a political majority. Last fall, after a year-long inquiry, a Select Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives found "legislation requiring the adoption of a uniform statewide academic freedom policy … is not necessary."

  • The Academic Bill of Rights sets the precedent of promoting federal standards for how colleges and universities make academic decisions, would send a chilling message to our nation's professors, and would stifle the open debate and free exchange of ideas so fundamental to higher education.

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