Sorry-- I have a senator who wants to write on this subject. I am waiting for that report so you can get a different voice on this subject. The senate bill came back to the House with amendments that put some teeth into ethics reform, and was more broad as to its scope. When it came back, it was killed again and sent off to a conference committee to try to work out the differences.
Today I will talk about the student bill of rights. This bill states that students at state funded universities should expect that
1. professors not grade them on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.
2. Teachers should follow the American Association of University Professors guidelines in that "teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject".
3.Student funds should be distributed on a viewpoint neutral basis and taxpayer funded universities should maintain a posture of neutrality with respect to substantive political or religious differences.
4.Students should also have the right to be informed of the statewide policy if a student has a grievance.
Similar bills are being proposed in many states due to an escalating number of student complaints. As far as I know, the legal concept originated in Colorado and became popular as stories surfaced relating to the problems of a few teachers using up large chunks of class time espousing their personal political or religious points of view.
In some cases, many students feel speaking up or questioning their professors has cost them a grade. In Tennessee we have lottery funded scholarships and a lowered grade or two can permanently cost a student his scholarship.
When I was in college in upstate New York, I saw problems on many occasions. Most students got to the point that they feared speaking on any subject for fear of upsetting the professor. This is not a good learning environment.
Upon moving to Tennessee I discovered the problem is worse. Although it could be just that problems have accelerated since I was in school. An example is an experience I shared with university students not long ago. I helped set up a forum called the "Bush Bash" at the Univ. of Tenn. during the last presidential election. This event was intended to attract students from all points of view to come forward and talk about why they supported their candidate or why they did not support a candidate.
The event was small, though well advertised.
I had several students come up to the microphone and say things like “my professor would fail me if he knew I was here" or "this isn't being filmed for rebroadcast on campus TV is it?"
It is time to try to address this problem. Many schools do have procedures in place, but because of teacher tenure, being able to do anything about this problem is nearly impossible. I feel students should have the right to maintain their own points of view without it hurting their grade while also ensuring them the greatest ability to grow.
I also feel that students who pay for a biology class should not have to listen to an hour and a half of partisan or political attacks against an elected official or issue. This has nothing to do with the subject that the student paid to learn nor the state of Tenn. funded the professor to teach. I want to be clear that this is not a problem with all professors or all classes--but neither is sexual harassment or racial discrimination.
The goal of this bill is to protect freedoms of students to have points of view that may be different from their professor and to truly and genuinely open debate on our college campuses. Other than stating what I believe to be non-partisan statements of the rights students should have, the central force of the bill is to set up a statewide grievance procedure where a student can have his/her grievance heard.