During winter break, as many students were either mentally or physically miles away from Main Campus, a panel of state House members swept into a second floor Student Center conference room to hear testimony regarding the university’s academic freedom and grievance policies.
The panel is officially called the Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education, which was born from House Resolution 177. The committee is visiting campuses of Pennsylvania’s public universities to see if existing university policies are effective and if there is any need for corrective legislation. Temple was the committee’s most recent stop, though it has already visited the University of Pittsburgh and plans to hold hearings at two central Pennsylvania campuses.
The debate over HR 177 raged on at Temple’s hearings, but, sadly, the discussion primarily involved professors, university administrators, lawmakers and free speech advocates. Everyone, it seemed, but typical Temple students.
If all parties involved in the intellectual diversity hubbub were truly as concerned about students’ rights as they say, it seems logical that every effort would have been made to publicize the hearings and to promote public comment from students.
Seemingly, that’s the best way to gauge if students are being indoctrinated or disenfranchised by radical professors and if there is cause for alarm.
That didn’t happen. The committee chose two dates – Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 – that were perfect for just about everyone. Except for nearly every Temple student.
Only two students testified at the hearings – one is vice-chairman of Temple’s College Republicans – and an unscientific scan of those in attendance showed that a measly half-dozen students attended the hearings each day, out of about 30,000.
Many students, at least for now, have had little opportunity to increase their interest or participate in a debate that could profoundly affect them.
Granted, a “Dissent in America” teach-in was held a few months ago regarding HR 177 and its effects. But many students remain ignorant of the resolution, the committee and the charges against the very professors who teach our classes.
State Rep. Gib Armstrong (R., Lancaster), the chief sponsor of HR 177, said after the hearings that panel members and those who testified were “simply at the mercy of scheduling” and added that Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 were the only two days in January and February that meshed best with everyone’s schedules.
Surely, state lawmakers are flooded with responsibilities. Trying to correlate their schedules with that of President David Adamany, a string of professors and other speakers from around the country is bound to be tough. But little, if any, regard was given to the schedules of students.
During testimony, arguments were made on both sides of the academic freedom debate, many of them referencing how university administrators and state officials can help Pennsylvania’s students.
It’s a shame that those same students, the subject of such heated debate, weren’t around to hear it.