Marquette Warrior: Marquette Will Refuse to Recognize Students for Academic Freedom

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Marquette Will Refuse to Recognize Students for Academic Freedom

We have blogged about the Marquette Students for Academic Freedom, which is trying to get itself the status of a recognized student group on campus.

The Office of Student Development has been dragging its feet on approving the organization’s Constitution. The Marquette Tribune, in fact, has slammed the lack of transparency surrounding the issue.

The organization’s president, Charles Rickert, has been told by Kelly Neumann of the Office of Student Development and Mark McCarthy, Dean of Student Development that the organization’s current Constitution won’t be accepted. Rickert shared the details of the meeting, which took place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, with us.

Neither Neumann nor McCarthy was immediately available to comment on the situation.

McCarthy was fairly explicit about what in the Constitution the OSD bureaucrats find objectionable.

First, they don’t mind that the organization promises to:
  • Invite speakers to address the issue of campus bias [but note that OSD could refuse to allow any speaker they don’t like]
  • Encourage vigorous, reasoned and civil debate, which is respectful of serious intellectual diversity
Now what is it that they don’t like?

The organization promises to:

  • Research political bias on campus by interviewing students and making a record of specific incidents, including unprofessional faculty behavior in the classroom and on campus, obstruction of campus speakers, and destruction of student literature
  • Note and object to events that abuse the academic nature of the university. These include: one-sided faculty political teach-ins, one-sided faculty conferences and one-sided faculty lecture series that are inappropriately partisan events in an academic setting
  • Note and object to one-sided reading lists, one-sided speakers programs, and lopsided funding of student organizations
  • Note and object to the absence of diversity among faculty in a particular department, in class curricula, and in classes offered [in context, this means intellectual diversity, and not race, gender or sexual orientation]
  • Create and disseminate a newsletter or pamphlet that documents any abuses
In other words, the group will complain, hopefully loudly, about ideological bias on campus.

Neumann and McCarthy also didn’t like the name “Students for Academic Freedom,” insisting that academic freedom at Marquette isn’t for students!

They particularly didn’t like the group’s affiliation with the national group Students for Academic Freedom, which they attacked as one-sided and controversial.

Bottom line: they simply don’t want any group on campus that will criticize anybody at Marquette for having an ideological bias.

Yet they certainly can’t have a policy of rejecting all groups that might criticize Marquette. They would have no objection if a black student group criticized Marquette for a lack of racial diversity. They would have no objection to the Gay/Straight Alliance criticizing Marquette for not being “gay friendly” enough.

It seems that what they really don’t want is for Marquette to be criticized from the political right.

As for affiliation with a controversial national organization: Marquette has recognized a student chapter of Amnesty International, which is certainly controversial.

The idea that students in the organization have a right to criticize individual faculty is hardly a new one. Until recently, students were encouraged to rate their professors on Dog Ears, and to do so via a link on the student government web site!

What we have here is some combination of ideological bias and bureaucratic politics. The liberal bureaucrats at OSD probably don’t see Amnesty International as a controversial organization, and don’t mind having Marquette attacked from the left.

But it’s also the case that this organization is likely to make trouble for the University, including OSD, which has a record of promoting and encouraging a left-slanted program of events and speakers.


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