Minnesota Republicans have introduced the Academic Freedom and Free Speech Bill of Rights (HF3922), a bill that aims to prevent students from being “discriminated against on the basis of political, ideological or religious beliefs.”
The bill has no teeth. It essentially directs public colleges and universities to adopt policies against discrimination in terms of political, ideological or religious beliefs–something all Minnesota schools currently have. Legislation regarding so-called academic bills of rights has been spearheaded by the well-funded conservative David Horowitz. A similar bill was introduced in the 2005-2006 Minnesota legislative session by then-Sen. Michele Bachmann.
PZ Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris who writes the popular science blog Pharyngula, recently wrote that “‘Academic Freedom’ bills are actually attempts to infringe on academic freedom. It’s full of high-minded language, but 1) they have not demonstrated that there is a problem, 2) they simply restate principles academics already hold, but 3) they turn those principles into opportunities for meddling legislators to police our campuses.”
David Brodsky of the American Association of University Professors at the University of Missouri has composed a lengthy online document explaining the problems associated with Horowitz and his movement. “The public rationale for [Academic Bill of Rights] claims that the ‘left’ dominates higher education through its monopoly power, ‘indoctrinating’ or ‘brainwashing’ students and ‘blacklisting’ the political right from faculty employment. Since the ‘left’ in right-wing terminology means any position left of far right, Horowitz’s ‘domination’ actually refers to mainstream opinion.”
The bill was introduced by Reps. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake (pictured above), Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, Steve Drazkowksi, R-Wabasha, Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, and Tom Emmer, R-Delano.