An Unexpected and Important Education Victory in Colorado

Colorado University shields students from political harassment by their professors.

[](/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/09/paf.jpg)In a unanimous 8-to-0 vote, the Colorado University regents have passed a resolution to add “political affiliation” to the school’s non-discrimination policy, thus protecting students from political harassment by their professors, including punitive retributions for expressing their views in class. Colorado U. is also moving forward with a study, approved by the regents in June, which will evaluate whether professors currently show proper respect for the differing (usually conservative) opinions of their students. This path-breaking resolution was the work of the two courageous regents who sponsored the resolution, Sue Sharkey and Jim Geddes.

The resolution amends Article 10 of the UC “Laws of the Regents” to state, “The University of Colorado does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, GENDER IDENTITY, GENDER EXPRESSION or veteran status, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, OR POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY in admission and access to, and treatment and employment in, its educational programs and activities.”

It goes on to add that, “The university is committed to the principle of non-discrimination and does not tolerate harassment on any basis, including sex, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, GENDER IDENTITY, GENDER EXPRESSION or age, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, OR POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.” [Words in capital letters are newly added to the policy].

Speaking on the resolution’s impact, Regent Sharkey commented that it “really does send a very good statement about the University of Colorado, and in a very positive way. … We’re not going to discriminate based upon a person’s political philosophy, political affiliation, gender identity or gender expression.”

This critical victory in the fight to protect the academic freedom of students and faculty has been a long time in coming. In the fall of 2003, the David Horowitz Freedom Center launched a campaign in Colorado to promote an Academic Bill of Rights for students to achieve a similar result. The core principles of the bill were adopted in a Joint Resolution of the Colorado legislature but because of the opposition of the teacher unions and the Democratic Party were never enforced.

In the spring of 2004, the reform campaign went national as the Freedom Center’s newly created organization, Students for Academic Freedom, was activated on 100 campuses nationwide. Over the next seven years many victories were achieved in educating the general public about the problem of political persecution of conservative students. But equally many defeats were suffered as the powerful teacher unions and their Democratic Party allies went into action and blocked every single reform the Freedom Center was able to put in place. The unions were even able to remove all the regents who voted to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights at Illinois’ College of DuPage, and to expunge the principles of intellectual diversity they had put in place as well.

In the summer of 2004, the Students for Academic Freedom campaign approached 88 university presidents, including the president of Colorado University, and asked them to revise their anti-discrimination policies to include political, ideological, and intellectual diversity.  Only two of the 88 responded and neither of them was willing to consider the proposal.

Now, nearly 10 years later, two Colorado University regents have persuaded their colleagues, including several Democrats, to achieve that goal. Bravo, Sue Sharkey and Jim Geddes.

“I am thrilled with this result,” commented David Horowitz. “I applaud Sue Sharkey and Jim for waging what I am sure was a lonely fight among their fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, to do the right thing and begin to restore an academic environment to our beleaguered university system. I have spoken to thousands of students in almost fifty states and heard their tales of professorial discrimination, harassment and outright intimidation. I have known first-hand the determined opposition to academic freedom of the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, and have felt the sting of their slanders. So I know the kind of backbone it took to get this resolution passed. What they have achieved lifts some of the burden of frustration from my shoulders, and I look forward to other universities adopting this needed reform in the coming months and years.”

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