WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today commended the University of Missouri for taking action to protect the marketplace of ideas on its four campuses. The university’s reforms came through a review by its Board of Curators and followed in the wake of “sunlight” legislation based on an ACTA report, as well as a scientific survey of undergraduates commissioned by ACTA.
“We have said for years that the best way to guarantee intellectual diversity on campus is for the institutions themselves to act,” ACTA president Anne D. Neal said. “Now, thanks to the Curators, Missouri has taken an excellent first step.”
At the Curators’ Thursday meeting, it was announced that UM campuses are launching special websites where students can file complaints regarding viewpoint discrimination. Special ombudsmen have been appointed to handle the complaints. The complaints will be compiled in a database and an annual report.
In 2005, ACTA released its report Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action. Lauded by trustees nationwide, the report called on colleges and universities to take steps to guarantee intellectual pluralism, including:
—Creating or designating ombudsmen with responsibility for intellectual diversity;
—Incorporating intellectual diversity into institutional statements, grievance procedures, and activities on diversity, including institutional websites and student orientation;
—Including intellectual diversity concerns in the institution’s guidelines on teaching and program development.
House Bill 213, introduced earlier this year in Missouri by Rep. Jane Cunningham and passed by the House of Representatives, included a similar list of suggestions, most of which were drawn from the report.
The bill was inspired by a widely-publicized case in which Emily Brooker, a former Missouri State University student was penalized for not signing an advocacy letter that conflicted with her conscience. After the student filed a federal lawsuit, MSU gave Brooker a generous settlement and commissioned an independent review of the program in which she was enrolled—which reported a “toxic” atmosphere rife with “bullying.”
Around the same time, a scientific survey commissioned by ACTA showed that Brooker was not alone. Undergraduates at the state’s two largest public campuses—the University of Missouri-Columbia and MSU—were polled, and 51 percent reported “courses in which students feel they have to agree with the professor’s political or social views in order to get a good grade,” among other troubling findings.
“In light of all the evidence, it’s no surprise that the Curators—as well as Missouri students, parents, taxpayers, and alumni—are concerned,” ACTA’s Neal concluded. “The situation demands action, and thanks to the Curators, appropriate first steps have been taken. We look forward to more.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country including those in Missouri. ACTA has issued numerous reports on higher education, including The Vanishing Shakespeare, How Many Ward Churchills?, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.