Campus diversity

Friday, May 4, 2007

When students enroll in college, they have a fair expectation that they will be exposed to many ideas, some of which they agree with and some of which they don't. Furthermore, they have a right to expect that their professors will not only share their ideas, but be reasonable in providing opportunities for students to be heard, too.

A bill in the Missouri Legislature would impose regulatory controls on the give and take that occurs on college campuses. Some proponents of the bill believe there is too much give and not enough take. Indeed, some students at publicly funded college campuses in the state say they are intimidated by some professors and either aren't allowed to express their personal viewpoints or are penalized for holding different views.

That's wrong. College classrooms should be forums for exploration and experimentation. No faculty member should be allowed to co-opt the thinking processes of students.

The Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act was named for a Missouri State University student who claims her freedoms of speech and religion were violated by a professor who demanded that she sign a letter in support of allowing homosexuals to be foster parents. Her lawsuit against the university was settled out of court.

Some opponents of the proposed bill believe there is a hidden agenda in the proposed diversity act that could be used to force a particular religious or political ideology on faculty members or students. If that's the case, such language has no business in this legislation.

University and college administrators owe it to their students and faculty to make sure there is a process for handling concerns about instructional diversity and the free flow of ideas and opinions. Without a mechanism to deal with such concerns, legislators will continue to be motivated to pass restrictive bills.

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