JEFFERSON CITY, MO—Many Missouri university students are receiving preaching rather than teaching, according to a poll released today by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The results were released as the legislature begins to consider House Bill 213, which seeks to ensure a free exchange of ideas on the state’s public university campuses.
“Missouri taxpayers pay professors to teach their subjects,” noted ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “But in this poll, many students say indoctrination is replacing education.”
ACTA commissioned Pulsar Consulting, whose principal was a founder of the University of Connecticut’s Center for Survey Research and Analysis, to poll undergraduates at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Missouri State University. Results included the following:
58.7 percent reported that “some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views”;
56.8 percent reported courses that “have readings which present only one side of a controversial issue”; and
51 percent of the students reported “courses in which students feel they have to agree with the professor’s political or social views in order to get a good grade.”
Notably, the vast majority of respondents described their political views as moderate, liberal, or radical left (75.7 percent). Some 63.2 percent also reported that they studied professional or science topics.
“These are striking numbers,” ACTA’s Neal said. “In some instances, close to sixty percent of students—most of whom study topics like engineering or biology—are complaining of unprofessional behavior in the classroom. What is going on in Missouri?”
Today, the House Higher Education Committee will hold hearings on HB 213, which would require Missouri’s public institutions of higher education to report annually on specific steps taken to “to ensure and promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom.” Its sponsor is Representative Jane Cunningham, chairman of the Education Committee.
The bill defines intellectual diversity as “the foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological, religious, and other perspectives, when such perspectives relate to the subject matter being taught or issues being discussed.”
The only requirement in the bill is that the universities file an annual report on the actions they have taken in pursuit of intellectual diversity and post it on their websites. It includes eleven suggested actions universities can take in pursuit of intellectual diversity—none of which are mandatory. The content of the report is entirely up to each institution.
The suggestions are based on those in ACTA’s report Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, which numerous trustees have praised for its sensitivity to academic freedom.
A similar reporting requirement is already in place in Pennsylvania, approved last year by a special bipartisan committee following testimony by ACTA. And after legislation like HB 213 was narrowly defeated in South Dakota, the Board of Regents required all public university professors to include a statement on their syllabi reminding students that their “academic performance may be evaluated solely on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards.”
“Some have said there are no problems on Missouri’s public campuses,” Neal concluded. “Today’s poll results suggest otherwise. I hope Missouri joins other states in taking appropriate action to give students the learning environment—and taxpayers the accountability—that they deserve.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a bipartisan, national nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability in higher education. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country and has issued numerous reports including Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.