The only student who testified, other than a few who came forward during public comment, at Millersville University before the Pennsylvania State House Committee on academic freedom was Terry Christopher.
Christopher, a Millersville University junior in Speech Communication, told the state legislators that Millersville does not have an academic freedom problem. “I have taken courses with professors on both ends of the political spectrum, and I’ve found that their political affiliations are not what have made me learn or not learn. I have learned best in classes that are open to free debate,” said Christopher.
Christopher urged committee members not to pass further legislation. He talked about a Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) professor named Stephan Williams who was forced to resign after he offended some students.
“Williams became noted at the Lancaster Campus of Harrisburg Area Community College for classroom discussions on Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality. He used the occasional curse word. A student described him as ‘a guy you could almost see yourself sharing a beer with while talking about history.’ Williams no longer teaches at the school in East Lampeter Twp. The former head of the history department was suspended in January, on the first day of the semester, for using a slang term for sexual intercourse in class,” wrote Carrie Cassidy of The Patriot News.
Based on this example, Christopher told committee members that “these so-called Academic Bill of Rights proposals cannot gain any strength, quality professors will lose their jobs or have to censor themselves and many elements of college life will be catastrophically affected.”
State Representative Gibson C. Armstrong said numerous times throughout the Pennsylvania hearings that the committee does not wish to pass an Academic Bill of Rights, but does want to ensure that state and state-related university students have the opportunity to freely express their political viewpoints and that professors are abiding by guidelines already in place.
Julia A. Seymour is a staff writer for Accuracy in Academia.