Pa. Lawmakers Avoid Broad Rules in Report Saying Academic-Freedom Problems Are 'Rare'

November 21, 2006

A special committee of the Pennsylvania legislature voted unanimously today to approve a report recommending that universities do more to guarantee students’ rights to academic freedom. But the report stopped short of calling for a statewide policy that would require universities to adopt such practices, saying violations of students’ academic freedom “are rare.”

The report, which has yet to be posted online, was drafted by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education, which held four hearings to investigate complaints that liberal professors had treated conservative students unfairly.

The final report was similar to the draft that the committee issued last week, with two minor exceptions. In one change, instead of saying universities should adopt new policies guaranteeing students’ rights, the final report recommends that universities make sure their existing policies on academic freedom cover students.

The draft report had also recommended that universities use course evaluations to ask students whether they felt free to say what they believed during class discussions. But the final report clarifies that it is up to universities to decide whether to add such questions to course evaluations.