COLUMBUS, Ohio — The sponsor of a contentious bill that would have barred college professors from spending too much class time on controversial topics has deferred to the state's higher education system.
The Inter-University Council of Ohio is expected to approve a resolution in October calling on schools to respect the opinions of students and faculty and
not judge them on their political beliefs.
Sen. Larry Mumper, a Marion Republican, said he prefers the compromise to the
legislation he introduced early this year. His academic "bill of rights" would
have barred professors from introducing controversial topics unrelated to course
material or presenting opinions as fact.
Sen. Joy Padgett, chairwoman of the Education Committee, worked with
university officials to draft the compromise. She said it would ease the burden
on the state in enforcing the controversial regulations. It also would be easier
for universities to swallow if it came from the council, said Padgett, a
"I thought there was some validity to the issue, but if we pass it as
legislation, it would be difficult to control and implement," she said.
If the proposal is adopted, universities will have to create their own means
for students and faculty members to file grievances if they feel they have been
Joseph Alutto, dean of Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business,
said he saw no problem with the compromise, although he thought the bill would
have unnecessarily tied professors' hands.
"We certainly would not support any faculty member who put forward a personal
view and then held students accountable for whether or not they accepted that
view," Alutto said.
The bill was roundly criticized among academics as an attack on free
Joe White, a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University
in Cleveland, said when the bill was under consideration that students could use
perceived discrimination as an excuse to refuse to learn.
"We're not supposed to teach for their comfort," he said.
Legislation similar to Mumper's original bill has popped up in more than a
dozen states. California and Colorado tossed similar bills out last year.
Florida's take on the measure died in the House earlier this year. Georgia
passed a resolution, less binding than a bill, that urges its adoption.
The Ohio legislation was culled from principles advocated by Students for
Academic Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based student network founded by
conservative activist David Horowitz.
Horowitz has said that professors attempt to force students to conform to
their political beliefs through grading.
"It doesn't matter a professor's viewpoint," Horowitz said in a previous
interview. "They can be a good professor, liberal or conservative, provided they
pursue an educational mission and not a political agenda."
The Inter-University Council will report to the Senate on its progress in
If the compromise resolution is adopted, students will be informed of it
through residence-hall meetings, e-mails and Web postings.