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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: No respect for higher education

    Last week the Arizona Senate Committee on Higher Education passed a bill allowing university and community college students to opt out of required reading they find personally offensive. If the bill is signed into law, schools will be required to provide alternative materials without levying an academic or financial penalty against the student.

    The bill, which requires exceptions to be made for students who object to coursework, learning material, activities or the course itself on the basis of religious, moral or sexual beliefs, is written so broadly as to be practically impossible to implement.

    No standards are set other than the immeasurably subjective offense students may take to their coursework. Books and other course materials could be blacklisted on no greater warrant than a student’s simple, unthinking distaste.

    The bill also provides no funding to institutions to cover the cost of the inevitable paperwork and increased workloads incurred in catering to students’ vicissitudes. These additional expenses would obviously detract further from the quality of education enjoyed by students who don’t share objecting students’ concerns.

    What is of far greater concern than the bill’s obvious unfeasibility, however, is its evisceration of instructors’ autonomy in determining what they should and ought to teach their students.

    Perhaps more than any other civil institution, higher education depends on the free exchange of ideas. Proposing that students have the ability to arbitrarily censor their coursework, and by extension their instructors, is to not only rob instructors of their pedagogical autonomy but also rob students of their responsibility and opportunity to encounter and evaluate new ideas -ÿa premise that is precisely antithetical to the purpose of higher education.

    No one is asking students to forsake their morals as a condition of their education, but a student’s right to object is already protected by existing regulations. With the right to object, however, comes the responsibility to compromise with instructors if an assignment is truly too objectionable to undertake. Shifting the obligation entirely to schools forces them to shoulder the unwarranted burden of catering to students who can essentially object on a whim, completely ignoring the good-faith efforts administrators and faculty already make to accommodate legitimately conscientious objectors.

    Mandating that universities devise curricula according to the caprice of students rather than the meticulously honed sensibilities of faculty ultimately serves no one well and will further sap urgently needed funds. Legislators should inspect their ill-conceived handiwork more closely, wise up to the enormous potential for abuse this bill presents, and strike it down before higher education in Arizona is saddled with an absurdly wasteful and pointless law.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Caitlin Hall, Michael Huston, Ryan Johnson, Aaron Mackey and Tim Runestad.

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