A group of House Republicans has introduced a new bill to prohibit “political tests” in the admission, hiring, and promotion of college students and staff to fight against “woke ideology” on American university campuses.
Reps. Elise Stefanik (NY), Fred Keller (PA), and Glenn Grothman (WI) presented the “Restoring Academic Freedom on Campus Act of 2022’’ on Wednesday to help fight back against “far left” bias at colleges across the nation.
“I will always stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of thought on college campuses,” Stefanik said in a statement. “Instead of encouraging diversity of ideas, some institutions of higher education are shamefully acting as gatekeepers to ensure their faculty, staff, and students all ascribe to Far Left woke ideology.”
Instead of creating intolerant political monoculture, universities should equip students to engage in a diversity of ideas outside the academic bubble.@RepFredKeller, @RepGrothman & I introduced a proposal to restore academic freedom on college campuses. https://t.co/YJnd0sosaL
— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) September 21, 2022
“While this intolerant political monoculture reaches institutions across our nation, this is something that has pervaded our own SUNY system,” she continued. “This growing trend puts ideological conformity above preparing our next generation for life outside the academic bubble and fails to equip students to thoughtfully engage in the competition of ideas. I will continue to stand up against indoctrination and restore academic freedom on college campuses across our nation.”
The bill would specifically stop higher education institutions from requiring a person to identify a commitment to or make a statement of personal belief in support of any ideology that promotes a specific partisan set of ideas.
The legislation also blocks requiring a particular viewpoint on an issue of public controversy or different treatment of the basis of race, including any formulation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion beyond upholding existing federal law.
Stefanik’s statement noted that the concern was revealed in a 2021 report from the American Enterprise Institute that showed approximately 20% of university faculty hiring and promotion decisions are made after taking a candidate’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or “DEI” statement into account. These statements can be used to discriminate on the basis of politics or ideology in ways that undermine free speech.
“Universities attempting to police the ideology of students and faculty during the admissions and hiring process is un-American and a grotesque attack on the right to free expression of our country at large,” Grothman added.
“Academia is healthiest and most productive when students feel comfortable speaking their minds and get exposure to diverse perspectives in the classroom,” he continued.
Stefanik’s statement shared the example of the University of California–Santa Cruz, which was criticized in a report by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) over its requirement for applicants to complete a “Statement of Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
The statement is defined as “addressing your understanding of the barriers facing traditionally underrepresented groups and your past and/or future contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion through teaching and professional or public service.” These requirements could be at odds with First Amendment rights as they potentially include issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity.