The Illinois Council of the American Association of University Professors today sent College of DuPage officials a letter denouncing proposed changes in the community college’s policy manual as “an extraordinary attack on academic freedom, shared governance, and intellectual liberty on campus.”
The proposed policy changes have been the subject of intense debate at the college since last fall, when faculty members learned that the planned revisions included language mirroring the “academic bill of rights” advocated by the conservative activist David Horowitz.
The college’s new president, Robert L. Breuder, recently tweaked the policy to try to dampen the controversy, taking out all but a few phrases linked to the academic bill of rights. The letter from the state’s AAUP council, approved by national AAUP officials and reprinted in full on the College Freedom blog, concedes that the latest version of the policy — scheduled for a vote by the college’s Board of Trustees on Thursday — represents an improvement over the version that met resistance from faculty members on the campus last fall.
But the state council’s letter says the proposed new policy manual continues to contain provisions giving the college’s administration “extraordinary power to ban speakers and protests, ban any discrimination based on ‘viewpoint or opinion,’ and prohibit ‘demeaning’ behavior.” Among the proposed changes the letter cites as open to abuse by the administration are provisions giving the president broad powers to restrict campus assemblies and requiring college employees to “present a proper and ethical image to the community.”
“These policies will almost certainly create a litigation nightmare for the College of DuPage as censored speakers or disgruntled students and applicants sue for ‘opinion discrimination,’” the letter says. It recommends, given the large number of provisions it describes as falling to meet AAUP standards related to academic freedom, that the board drop the effort at a wholesale revision of the policy manual and instead work with the faculty to revise individual provisions of the manual.
A spokesman for the college could not be reached today for comment. —Peter Schmidt