South Dakota State University is one of the 40 colleges and universities featured in a new report showcasing best practices from across the country to protect the free exchange of ideas on campuses.
The report is the cornerstone of a national campaign by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni to reinvigorate the intellectual life at universities. It is being sent to the individual board members of nearly 600 institutions responsible for the education of more than $6 million students.
An entire section of the report is devoted to South Dakota State University, according to David Azerrad, Program Officer for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, SDSU is featured alongside some big name schools like Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton. Azerrad said that the South Dakota education system as a whole is praised for the “Freedom in Learning” template-statement which the Board of Regents requires each university to include on all syllabi.
The statement adopted by SDSU administration informs students of their right to be graded solely on academic merits, and also tells them that if they “believe that an academic evaluation reflects prejudiced or capricious standards,” they may contact the department head or college dean.
South Dakota State University is also praised for its student code, which states: “Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals. Freedom to teach and to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom,” Azerrad said.
“Intellectual diversity is at the core of a quality college education,” Azerrad added. “These steps show a concerted effort on the part of the regents and the South Dakota State University administration to ensure an environment friendly to diverse viewpoints. “Across the country, there are unfortunately too many instances of universities silencing speech and implementing restrictive speech codes. Consider, for example, neighboring Dakota State University, which gets a red light rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for having policies which ‘clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.'”
According to Azerrad, between 2005 and 2008, the South Dakota Board of Regents and SDSU administration enacted these reforms pertaining to intellectual diversity.
ACTA had a part to play in raising awareness of the need to protect the free exchange of ideas, he added. In 2006, ACTA offered expert testimony before the South Dakota legislature as it considered a bill to require South Dakota institutions to report on steps they were taking to advance intellectual diversity.
Though the legislation didn’t pass, it helped to highlight the important issue and resulted in positive voluntary action by the trustees.