WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today commended the University System of Georgia for surveying its students about the intellectual climate on campus and for reviewing its grievance procedures.
“The University of Georgia System is taking the kind of responsible, voluntary action needed to ensure that students experience a robust exchange of ideas on campus,” ACTA president Anne D. Neal said. “The university system is much better equipped to address the issue of intellectual diversity than any court or legislature. We applaud it for doing so.”
The institutional survey comes in the wake of growing public concerns—in Georgia and across the country—about higher education accountability. In recent years, USG campuses have been the focus of four First Amendment lawsuits by students and the state legislature held a hearing in early 2007—at which ACTA testified—examining the state of intellectual diversity on campus.
Earlier this year, ACTA also released a “report card” that graded the university system in four key areas—general education, intellectual diversity, governance, and affordability—and called for the Board of Regents to take corrective action in several areas. It included a scientific survey, performed by a national research firm, of students at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Previously, several legislators introduced “sunlight” legislation—based on ACTA’s publication Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action—requiring the university system to issue annual reports to the public on the state of the marketplace of ideas. ACTA’s report sets out a number of recommendations, including commissioning a self-study of the classroom environment, which the USG Board of Regents has done here. A similar review was done at Missouri State University in 2006.
ACTA’s report also calls for making certain that students have clear avenues to lodge complaints, a process that is underway in Georgia. Other public universities in Missouri, New York, and South Dakota have taken similar action in recent years.
Notably, the USG’s own press release announcing the survey results expressed concern that “only 47 percent” of students indicated that their peers were “respectful of the political opinions of all students.”
“The Regents have a fiduciary obligation to make certain that public funds are being used wisely on Georgia’s public campuses, and we are delighted they acted on it,” Neal said. “But we, too, are troubled by some of the numbers in the survey results. We hope that the Board will review the survey closely in the coming days, and we will suggest some ways to move forward from here.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. Its network includes alumni and trustees from more than 600 colleges and universities across the country. Since its founding in 1995, ACTA has counseled boards and educated the public about such issues as historical literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas, accreditation, and good governance in higher education.
Pulsar Research and Communications performed the student survey included in ACTA’s report card on the University System of Georgia. The project was overseen by Pulsar managing partner Christopher Barnes, who formerly worked for the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Senate Democratic Caucus and has performed surveys for TIME magazine and other well-known institutions.