Hi 81 / Lo 73
|Volume 70, Issue 161,
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Sam Khan, Jr. Tina Marie Macias
Official academic fairness policy a tightrope
Ever felt that a professor graded your work unfairly because you expressed a viewpoint that opposed his or her own? If so, the federal government may be on your side.
A bill passed by a House of Representatives committee calls on universities to provide for "intellectual pluralism" and encourage professors to express dissenting viewpoints.
Though the bill is largely symbolic in that it's not tied to federal funding in any way, the message Congress is trying to send is clear.
Some states have called for official legislation outlining measures professors must take to ensure that students who hold opposing viewpoints aren't marginalized or discriminated against.
Not a bad idea, considering the potential for bad apples to create discriminatory environments.
There are some dangers involved in an "academic bill of rights," however. Professors are not grade school teachers -- they are allowed certain freedoms in developing their lesson plans and determining the style in which they choose to present material for a reason.
Excessive control of professors by government bodies would seriously detract from what is supposed to make a university education so valuable -- learning material firsthand from the top experts in various fields.
Anything that would predetermine what a professor is allowed to teach at a public institution would be a serious breach of their academic freedom.
As long as protective measures aren't allowed to be too far-reaching and powerful and only applied in appropriate situations, however, they could go a long way toward making students feel more comfortable with the objectivity of their grades and help dispel the negative image of the overzealous, discriminatory instructor.
It's the government's burden, then, to tread carefully, protecting students from unfair
treatment while remaining as uninvolved as possible.
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