Press Releases | Intellectual Diversity

Montana Legislature to Tackle Intellectual Diversity

Bill filed to ensure free exchange of ideas on public campuses
February 13, 2007

HELENA, MT—The Montana legislature is considering House Bill 525, which aims to ensure the free exchange of ideas at the state’s public universities. The legislation would require the campuses to report annually on specific steps taken to “to ensure and promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom.”

“Taking action on intellectual diversity is common sense,” declared Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “Universities should encourage a mix of ideas, and taxpayers have a right to know what the schools they fund are doing.”

The legislation’s sponsor is Representative Roger Koopman. It will have a committee hearing on Friday, where ACTA’s Neal will testify on intellectual diversity.

The bill defines intellectual diversity as “the foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological, and other perspectives when these perspectives relate to the subject matter being taught or issues being discussed.”

The only requirement in the bill is that the universities file an annual report on the actions they have taken in pursuit of intellectual diversity and post it on their websites.

Koopman’s legislation includes eleven suggested actions universities can take in pursuit of intellectual diversity—none of which are mandatory. The content of the report is entirely up to each institution.

The suggestions are based on those in ACTA’s report Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, which numerous trustees have praised for its sensitivity to academic freedom.

House Bill 525 addresses concerns over the lack of intellectual diversity on campuses nationwide, including in Montana. In a national poll commissioned by ACTA, nearly half of students reported “totally one-sided” campus panels and faculty “us[ing] the classroom to present their personal political views.” The University of Montana has also made many headlines for barring a qualified professor from teaching constitutional law, seemingly because of his political views.

Legislation nearly identical to HB 525 has been introduced this year in Missouri, Georgia, and Virginia.

A similar reporting requirement is already in place in Pennsylvania. It was approved last year by a special bipartisan committee following testimony by ACTA. When the committee’s findings were issued, groups such as the American Federation of Teachers and American Association of University Professors expressed no disagreement with the reporting requirement.

South Dakota also took action on intellectual diversity last year. After legislation like HB 525 was narrowly defeated there, the Board of Regents required all public university professors to include an “Academic Freedom Statement” on their course syllabi. It reminds students that their “academic performance may be evaluated solely on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards.”

“I hope Montana will be the next state to ensure that public university students receive the quality education they deserve,” Neal concluded. “Representative Koopman deserves much credit for trying to ensure accountability in higher education—while fully protecting academic freedom and institutional autonomy.”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a bipartisan, national nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability in higher education. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country and has issued numerous reports including How Many Ward Churchills?, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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