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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pre k passes and the student bll of rights

Well Pre-K passed the House. I am sure most of you can guess how I voted. Many of the issues I brought up were offered as amendments such as the books from birth program. Other amendments were brought to make the program for at risk children only, dividing the money among the 3 grand divisions equally,allowing private schools to have a shot at the money (vouchers). All these died along party lines.

Many representatives spoke to the facts posted on this blog, as well as other blogs. But in the end, the vote was 75 for, 21 against.

We'll see how the Senate handles the bill.

I began to present my Student Bill of rights and it went well. It is moving as I expected and I even picked up some bi-partisan support. The highlight had to be when the head man for Tennessee higher ed began to speak. He ended up helping me by accident.

He started out as expected by saying it's not needed, it's already covered, etc. When I asked about the weakness of it not being codified and the inability to enforce the rules with tenured professors, he agreed saying that the programs in place might affect just non-tenured teachers.

What happened next was very interesting. Unprompted, several other representatives from both sides of the political aisle started to talk about their own horror stories. And then they talked about stories told to them by their constituents years before I ever brought up this bill! Then probably most interesting of all to me, was one legislator told how he used to be a student government president and would have to deal with these complaints.

He told how most of the students were given the runaround and put off or brushed under the carpet. The Tennessee Higher Ed rep. said something to the effect of “well, we don't do that to all of them.”

My jaw hit the floor. I chimed in that he was ADMITTING it does happen to SOME of them?!?! He replied “yes, but not many”. I don't know what to say except thank you-he proved there is indeed a need for my bill. I answered a few more questions and then it was time to go.

What a day!


  1. You don't suppose that "the head man for TN higher ed" is Mike225, do you?

  2. LOL I'm not *nearly* that important!! :)

  3. And, by the way, I think there is a need for *parts* of the SBoR, don't get me wrong. For example, I think students deserve protection from overly zealous teachers who actually do use the classroom as an indoctrination laboratory. But, I do feel that the first clause speaking on "controversial" and non-directly related material is too broadly written; it must be narrowly constructed so professor will know what to expect. By using such broad language, you're only going to make professors start second-guessing their own curriculum.

  4. That's what the review boards or committees are for (kind of like what our Founders intended the judiciary to do: merely to apply legislated and broad principles to specific facts). But you still think that it is enough to let the foxes (administrators and educators) guard the henhouse or to merely have high-minded and toothless guidelines for professionalism?

  5. So we're going to take these issues to the courts?

  6. Darn right, if necessary; but based on your various statements, I can't tell that you've actually read the legislation. It requires the establishment of a statewide institutional grievance procedure and requires that universities inform students of their rights, generally and the grievance procedure, particularly.

  7. So we can bog down the university instructors with even petty complaints from students so that the professors have to attend whatever committee meeting it is that will decide their actions?

    I don't mind having the courts system in place, actually. I trust the courts more than I do most other governmental bodies.

  8. Yep, whatever it takes to jerk them into line (although I would predict moral relativist Liberal students to abuse the system more than anyone else--"if I don't stop Prof. Gingrich from espousing his hate, an innocent child passing by a class window might hear him mention how great America is or something...dude." But the point is "do students have academic liberty at the present time?" The answer is "no," and it appears there is NO recourse short of legislation. By the way, what else do professors have to do during their off days? For what it's worth, most courts are terribly overloaded and should almost never have to hear these cases. All that would be dealt with in the required statewide grievance procedure.

  9. Hey powertee, check the April 26 discussion, I've got a comment for ya on there.

    That's a good point about how the more lefty students might abuse the system over what they consider "insensitive" remarks. And, speaking of Gingrich, you guys definitely needed Newt down with you on the floor when Naifeh pulled that crap. Newt was a master of Robert's Rules of Order.

    We need to set a definition of "academic liberty." In the most obvious sense, it seems to be the freedom to decide what courses one will take. The phrase itself is rather vague in its meaning. Any ideas?

  10. Mike225, Thanks for the tip to the 4/26 post; I've responded.

    Re. "academic liberty": my point (and this is where we don't mesh) is that we don't have it if profs can intimidate students with opposing viewpoints with impunity and there is no means of redress. We can't ensure liberty, but we can punish oppression.

  11. I can't disagree with that definition, Powertee. I agree that students should not be bullied by their professors to rearrange their values. But, what should the standardized statewide grievance procedure entail? If it is a committee of legislators, then we run the risk of having inconsistent decisions as the legislature changes over time. If it is a committee appointed by the governor, we run into the same problem, but even more so since that committee will be beholden to the gov for their jobs. If it is a body of students and professors at each school, then we would basically have what we do now. However with that, we run into your problem of the foxes guarding the henhouse. What's your take on how this should go, Powertee?

  12. Mike225,

    It really is important to read the text of the SBOR if there is to be any cogent or productive discussion of it. But as best I recall, the legislation calls for the creation of a statewide standard for individual schools to follow in creating a grievance procedure. It also requires that students be informed of this procedure (kind of like a Miranda Warning for students). But most importantly, it expresses the legislature's intent that public universities be accountable to protect students' rights not to pay to be browbeaten or mistreated by quacks in the classroom.


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