Faculty Senate takes a stand

The Tartan commends and thanks the Faculty Senate for taking an uncompromising stance against the influence of conservative activist David Horowitz in Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

As we’ve reported before, last summer the Pennsylvania legislature approved a resolution — H.R. 177 — that would investigate political bias in our state’s colleges. H.R. 177 (and similar legislation) comes directly out of Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights, which is an attempt to loosen a supposed liberal stranglehold on institutions of higher education.

In June, a committee approved by the Pennsylvania legislature will return with its findings on whether or not the state’s schools are politically biased. And when they do, the members of Carnegie Mellon’s Faculty Senate will issue press releases protesting the government’s influence on colleges, both public and private.

Right now the committee cannot touch Carnegie Mellon. But it can touch the University of Pittsburgh and other public schools, some of which Carnegie Mellon professors have close ties to. Drama professor Michael Chemers, who appeared before the Faculty Senate last week to propose a protest of the General Assembly’s committee, remarked, “I collaborate with professors from Pitt. If they feel intimidated, that changes my work relationship with them.”

Chemers brought before the Faculty Senate a resolution that will position Carnegie Mellon against the committee to assess bias on state campuses. Chemers said that a protest letter will be sent to major publications locally to state clearly that Carnegie Mellon is against the spirit of the committee.

The Faculty Senate should be applauded for its efforts to protest the committee and the spirit behind it. Faculty Senate declares that “it stands in solidarity with its colleagues in Pennsylvania higher education and opposes H.R. 177 in the strongest possible terms as an attempt to politicize hiring processes and professorial review.”

The Faculty Senate’s resolution steps in the right direction, especially in its attempts to make its protest of H.R. 177 public.

We asked Chemers what more could be done to combat H.R. 177 and Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights. He reacted strongly: “I think it’s a tremendous waste of time to even have to do this [speak against H.R. 177].... I’m angry that I even have to say ... that this is wrong.” Chemers added that the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to protest the resolution.

As Chemers points out, measures to prevent students from being unfairly treated on any grounds — including political leaning — are already in place. Any jurisdiction the state would have over professors who allegedly misgrade students on such grounds would be redundant. The Faculty Senate takes the correct approach by stating loudly and clearly that such state interference in the college system is unwarranted.

“We are not saying that there’s no ideological bias or that there is,” said Chemers of the resolution the Faculty Senate passed. “And we are not saying that if it does exist it is or is not harmful. What we are saying is that oversight of these issues belongs in the institution and not the government.”

Now, the suspisciously redundant language of the Academic Bill of Rights has shown up in the United States Congress, in Section 103 of House Resolution 609. If it passes, academia’s traditional — and legitimate — liberalism could come under fire nationwide.

If only the state government could see that wisdom, instead of trying to flush out this alleged bias with its redundant committees. Then and only then could we feel that Horowitz-type agendas were not frighteningly near.