Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Marquette Rejects Students For Academic Freedom: More Coverage

Marquette’s refusal to recognize the campus Students for Academic Freedom has been covered by both student newspapers, and the campus blogs.

In The Warrior, an article by Mary Ellen Burke is titled “SAF denial dampers hopes for Student Bill of Rights.” It offers a very detailed and balanced account, with the history of student government actions seeking to protect academic freedom for students, and extensive quotes from SAF president Charles Rickert, Mark McCarthy, Dean of Student Development and Vice Provost Margaret Bloom.

“You have the right to remain silent — especially if you’re a student,” Burke observes.

The Tribune has a somewhat shorter article by Lindsay Fiori titled “OSD denies Students for Academic Freedom recognition.” Given the Tribune’s editorial position opposing SAF, the Fiori article is ironically a bit more favorable toward the organization than the Burke article in The Warrior. Fiori of course quotes the usual University spokespeople, but also quotes us, and includes extensive quotes from Rickert, including some real zingers. For example:
“Today was a defeat for the free marketplace of ideas at Marquette,” Rickert said. “It’s sad universities today are no longer places of civil and reasoned debate among different viewpoints.”
And further:
“This response means that throughout the course of 18 weeks OSD clearly did not hear what I was saying because they were either not listening or were trying to frame debates in ways SAF never meant,” Rickert said. “From the moment SAF applied, OSD was only looking for reasons to deny it. They were not helpful or specific on what to modify in our constitution and took two months to even give an initial opinion.”
The blogosphere chimed in as Daniel Suhr of GOP3.COM dissected Marquette’s decision. Suhr notes that the Office of Student Development disagrees with some of the stances of the SAF national organization, and then argues:
I entirely agree that MU should evaluate the national affiliate. However, in cases when a parent organization’s agenda conflicts with Marquette’s mission, the past practice has been to simply say that Marquette’s mission takes precendence in the specific areas of disagreement, not to deny the group outright. Thus, even though both the national Democratic Party and Amnesty International support abortion and gay marriage, we have College Democrats and AI on campus. If Marquette objected to certain parts of the nationwide SAF Information Center, common practice would have been to specify that the Marquette chapter could not advocate those objectionable parts of the national group’s agenda.
But of course, “common practice” can be ignored when the real intention is to stifle the group.

Suhr goes on to take issue with a reported comment of Mark McCarthy that “The main focus of such an organization is on academic freedom, which is really under purview of faculty.” Suhr responds:
This is typical of the administrators’ mindset - students are to be babied. They bring nothing valuable to campus but their tuition dollars and butts in the lecture hall chairs. Academic freedom is of interest to everybody! SAF argues that students need the freedom to express themselves in the classroom or in assignments without fear of ideological punishment. I suppose it should not be surprising that the administration that does not see a need for a student voice on governance issues does not believe students have academic freedom.
Also on GOP3, Brandon Henak urges readers to take action to support SAF by writing Marquette administrators.

Finally, talk show host Charlie Sykes links to one of our posts on the issue, and notes the irony of the situation:
Now, this is odd.

John McAdams has the story, including the newspeak explanation by MU bureaucrats that Students for Academic Freedom is inimical to. . . . academic freedom.

A fascinating glimpse of the academic mindset.
Fascinating, but all too typical, we are afraid.

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