Higher Education Sunshine Act Exposed

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The Higher Education Sunshine Act is listed under ALEC's Education Task Force, however, it does not include approval information. ALEC has attempted to distance itself from this piece of legislation after the launch of ALECexposed.org in 2011, but it has done nothing to get it repealed in the states where it previously pushed for it to be made into law.

CMD's Bill Summary

This "model" bill attempts to require "intellectual diversity" to protect against the imposition of any political, ideological, or religious orthodoxy. These protections are framed neutrally, but they emerge in the context of continuing critique from the right-wing that universities are too "liberal" or hostile to religious, "conservative", or religiously fundamentalist points of view. Notably, the bill exempts private colleges from these legal obligations. It also seeks to impose a requirement that professors be evaluated based on "intellectual diversity." It is also condemnatory toward protests of speakers expressing disfavored views, which might have the effect of obstructing such speakers. It also may the effect of establishing a kind of affirmative action toward including fundamentalist or right-wing academics on campus in order to satisfy the dictates of required intellectual diversity. It also empowers an ombudsperson to help enforce the mandate of intellectual diversity.

ALEC Bill Text

Section 1. Short Title.

This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Higher Education Sunshine Act.”

Section 2. Definitions.

As used in this act, unless the context otherwise requires:

(A) “Intellectual diversity” is defined 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.

Section 3. Annual Report.

The [Board of Trustees, Regents, state coordinating council] shall require each public institution under its control to report annually to the Legislature detailing the steps the institution is taking to ensure intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.

(A) The report required in this subsection shall address the specific measures taken by the institution to ensure and promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom. The report may include steps taken by the institution to:

(1) Conduct a study to assess the current state of intellectual diversity on its campus;
(2) Incorporate intellectual diversity into institution statements, grievance procedures, and activities on diversity;
(3) Encourage a diverse variety of campus-wide panels and speakers and annually publish the names of panelists and speakers;
(4) Establish clear campus policies that ensure that hecklers or threats of violence do not prevent speakers from speaking;
(5) Include intellectual diversity concerns in the institution’s guidelines on teaching and program development;
(6) Include intellectual diversity issues in student course evaluations;
(7) Develop hiring, tenure, and promotion policies that protect individuals against viewpoint discrimination and track any reported grievances in that regard;
(8) Establish clear campus policies to ensure freedom of the press for students and report any incidents of student newspaper thefts or destruction;
(9) Establish clear campus policies to prohibit viewpoint discrimination in the distribution of student fee funds;
(10) Eliminate any speech codes that unduly restrict the freedom of speech; or
(11) Create an institutional ombudsman on intellectual diversity, or specifically charge an existing ombudsman with monitoring the state of intellectual diversity.

(B) The report shall be distributed to the members of the Legislature no later than December thirty-first of each year.

(1) The report shall be posted on each public higher education institution’s web site.

Section 4. {Repealer Clause.}

Section 5. {Effective Date.}