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The Senate Government Committee heard testimony today on SB 1542, a bill that would impose penalties on faculty that discuss political and controversial subjects in higher education. Students representing the Arizona Students Association (ASA) and the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) from across the state came to the Capitol today in opposition to the bill, which they see as an effort to restrict what they are able to learn in college classrooms.
SB 1542 would open the possibility of a $500 fine, disciplinary action and lawsuits against faculty that “advocate one side of a social, political or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy.” Student leaders with ASA and Arizona PIRG urged committee members to reject the bill because it would force professors to avoid potentially important subjects and content in their teaching.
“I don’t want my teachers to avoid a topic because they are worried they will get in trouble for discussing a controversial subject,” said ASA Board Chair Devin Mauney. “College is supposed to be about getting exposed to a wide variety of perspectives, and that can’t happen if my teachers feel like there are subjects and discussions that are off limits,” continued Mauney, who is a student at Arizona State University-Tempe.
The bill is similar to the so-called “Academic Bill of Rights” promoted by David Horowitz, who recently came under criticism for his attacks against University of Arizona faculty and graduate students. Bills similar to SB 1542 have been introduced and defeated in more than twenty states over the past several years.
Student leaders also pointed out that there is no evidence of a problem with political bias in education. “I simply don’t see a problem with my classes. Professors talk about a lot of perspectives, some of which I agree with, some of which I don’t, but that’s part of the learning process. It’s time we move on from this non-problem and start talking about the real issues Arizona students face,” said Becca Rodl, a junior at the University of Arizona.
For more information, visit the Free Exchange on Campus Coalition at www.freeexchangeoncampus.org.
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