The Square Circuit

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

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

PA Academic Freedom Hearings pt. 4

The Select Committee on Academic Freedom, Rep. Gib Armstrong's hobbyhorse seeking to root out "liberal bias" in academia, finally had its fourth and final fact-finding hearing at Harrisburg Area Community College after get-togethers at Pitt, Temple, and Millersville U. in Lancaster. The committee--which was described by one of its own members as "a solution in search of a problem"--was convened ostensibly to investigate the academic climate in PA public universities and colleges, and Armstrong insisted repeatedly that although he couldn't cite any pressing need for such an investigate that he had dozens of private complaints by conservative students that they were being graded down by their lefty profs because of their views.

The Harrisburg hearings turned up precisely the same situation. The CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION reported on June 1 that

"Peter H. Garland, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education... said that the State System of Higher Education, which enrolls more than 107,000 students at 14 universities, has received 14 formal complaints from students in the past five years. He said that those grievances might have included claims from students that professors had presented extraneous information or represented a certain ideology in the classroom, and that the complaints had been resolved.

State Rep. Dan A. Surra, a Democrat who serves on the panel but who vehemently opposed its creation, said that number averages to 0.2 complaints per university per year. "I just personally don't think that warrants a select committee of the House going around the state taking testimony," he said. He reiterated that he thinks the hearings are a waste of time."

So, yeah. A waste of time and money. The committee will present a report Nov. 30 on its findings, but sadly Rep. Armstrong will not be able to shepherd this witchhunt/panel any longer: he was defeated in his Republican primary, partly (he says) because angry professors at Millersville worked against him.

I'm going to mark this one a defeat for David Horowitz.


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