February 20, 2007
Proposed Arizona Bill Would Fine “Political” Profs
A bill approved by a Senate Government Committee of the Arizona State Senate would impose fines for professors who advocate partisan positions. The proposed legislation, S.B. 1612, sponsored by Sen. Thayer Verschoor, leader of the Republican majority in the Senate would prohibit professors at public universities or colleges in the state from: 1) endorsing, supporting or opposing any candidate for local, state or national office; 2) endorsing, supporting or opposing any pending legislation, regulation or rule under consideration by a local, state, or federal agency; 3) endorsing, supporting or opposing any litigation in any court; 4) advocating “one side of a social, political, or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy;” and 4) hindering military recruiting on campus or endorsing the activities of those who do hinder military recruiting.
The proposed legislation would direct the Arizona Board of Regents to develop guidelines for implementing the law, and requiring all faculty to participate annually in a three hour training session on their responsibilities under the law. Violators of the law could be suspended or terminated, and would be subject to prosecution by the state attorney general or county prosecutors, with penalties up to fines of $500. Universities and colleges, and their insurance companies, would be prohibited from paying the fines of any faculty convicted under the law.
The proposed law has drawn criticism from faculty and student groups, pointing out the obvious constitutional problems with it; the blog College Freedom has called the bill "the worst legislative attack on academic freedom in the history of American higher education." Verschoor, a 1993 graduate of Arizona State University, stated that there has been a problem with professors imposing politics on their students; he defended the bill by saying "You can speak about any subject you want -- you just don't take a position."
The text of the bill can be accessed at http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/48leg/1r/bills/sb1612p.pdf