February 26, 2007

More States Considering Academic Ombuds for "Intellectual Diversity"

Missouri, Georgia and South Dakota are actively considering laws modeled on draft legislation written by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a conservative group that declaims the purported lack of intellectual diversity in the higher education. Among other steps, the legislation would require public colleges and universities to "Create an institutional ombudsman on intellectual diversity." Although the various bills do not define the role of the proposed ombuds, an ACTA white paper explains:
Some universities have a campus ombudsman who has fact-finding responsibilities on a range of issues, but no authority to take action. What makes the ombudsman’s report special is that it goes directly to the governing board. This post is usually held by a respected faculty member on a limited-term appointment, but it can also be assigned to a retired professor or someone off campus. Intellectual diversity concerns could be added to the portfolio of the ombudsman. Or a special ombudsman for intellectual diversity could be created.

Similar measures have been defeated recently in Virginia and Montana. (For more information on the Missouri legislation see The Turner Report and HB 213; for Georgia, see HB 154; for South Dakota, see Rapid City Journal and HB 1222; the legislation that lost in Virginia Free Exchange on Campus and HB 1643; related post, Bill to Create State-Wide University Ombuds Offices Defeated in Montana. For information on ACTA, see their website: ACTA and report: Intellectual Diversity: A Time for Action.)

So here's a rare editorial...
However you may feel about ACTA's goals personally, ombuds should not be passive and let a special interest group redefine the profession. This is an issue IOA should consider confronting.

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