The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"A solution in search of a problem"

More about the Select Committee on Academic Freedom: the American Association of University Professors posted a story about the recent hearings looking for "bias" in university teaching held at Pitt. In the words of the AAUP story,

"Many of the minority members of the select committee criticized the very existence of the committee and wondered why it was spending time and taxpayer money on what could charitably called (in the words of several members and witnesses over the two days) a solution in search of a problem. There were repeated references to the fact that this member or that member had not heard one complaint from students or parents about restrictions on student academic freedom. And the fact remains that after one informational meeting (in Harrisburg on September 19, 2005 where David French, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave a presentation on FIRE’s take on student academic freedom and freedom of expression) and two days of public hearings in Pittsburgh not one instance of such activities have been raised."

The political donations from university employees were a particular topic of interest. Rep. Gibson Armstrong, a Republican Senator from Armstrong and York counties, who chairs the committee, was particularly interested in the imbalance of political donations from university employees: it's heavily weighted to Democrats. No word on whether he'll be investigating the balance of political donations among corporate executives or evangelical church leaders.

"Rep. Dan Surra (a Democrat from Elk County) was... impressed by the fact that there were 4000 faculty at Pitt and only 141 made donations," reports the AAUP. Well, come to think of it, this seems like poking a bear with a sharp stick: if they're all Democrats, but none of them give any money, why risk riling them up? Carry on, Sen. Armstrong.


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