Higher education bill not censorship, but good policy

To the Daily:

A recent Michigan Daily editorial (Big Brother in class,
09/14/04) presents an inaccurate depiction of the International
Studies in Higher Education Act and contains several blatant
errors.

The information presented more closely resembles what CBS News
and Dan Rather would report, not what I would expect from The
Michigan Daily. Moreover, my office was never contacted to discuss
the facts of the bill discussed in the editorial, nor for a
previous article that ran in the Daily concerning the bill.

The fact is that for several decades Congress has annually
invested millions of dollars in university-level international
studies programs — nearly $90 million in 2004. Congress is
now seeking to determine whether those dollars are well spent and
whether those programs are presenting diverse perspectives to
students. However, the editorial from the Daily paints an Orwellian
portrait of heavy-handed censorship imposed by a board that will
“study and regulate what is taught at American
universities.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The International Studies in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3077)
re-authorizes international studies programs funded under Title VI
of the Higher Education Act. To ensure that international studies
programs coordinate with other federal programs in creating an
informed citizenry, the bill creates an International Education
Advisory Board for all programs funded under the title.

The Daily claims that “(a)t its fundamental core, this
bill destroys the concept of academic freedom and intellectual
debate.” The fear is neither consistent with the intent of
Congress, nor anywhere close to the actual text of the
legislation.

On the contrary, H.R. 3077 requires international studies
programs to teach diverse perspectives, and it specifically forbids
the board from directing programs and instructional methods or
dictating curriculum. The board would have absolutely no budgeting
authority to award or rescind institutional grants. It will not
have “the power to defund international studies
programs.” Teachers and faculty will not be “pressured
into teaching the government-approved lessons.”

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans of almost every profession
realized that they do not live in a global vacuum. Nearly every
action they take must be approached from within an international
context and with an international sensitivity.

International education programs at the postsecondary level play
a major role in building and maintaining Americans’ expertise
in foreign language and international business arenas.

This priority brings with it the responsibility to ensure a
diversity of perspectives within international studies programs
that receive federal funding — including perspectives from
outside the realm of academia and the Department of Education.

Members of the proposed board would be appointed by the leaders
of both parties in both chambers of Congress. Including
representatives from federal agencies, such as the Department of
State and the National Security Agency, it would ensure that
important stakeholders from varying vantage points are provided
with a voice.

The advisory board is not a new idea. A similar board existed
for years before it was cut due to budget concerns in the late
1980s. Censorship was never a concern raised by academics during
its existence.

The International Studies in Higher Education Act received
strong bipartisan support in the House Committee on Education and
the Workforce in September 2003, and it passed the House
unanimously in October. Not a single member of Congress voted
against the bill at any stage of its development.

While I would like to see the bill go before the Senate before
the 108th Congress adjourns, there is no specific timetable.
However, it remains my hope that senators will follow our work in
strengthening international education programs and training
informed scholars.

Peter Hoekstra

Alum

The letter writer is a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives; he represents Michigan’s 2nd congressional
district.

 

The University has no position on legislation

To the Daily:

I was happy to talk to your reporter about the proposal in
HR3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003,
to establish an “advisory board” for the U.S.
Department of Education National Resource Centers at our
country’s universities. But the article (Proposed board
would increase gov’t monitoring in ‘U’
classrooms
, 09/09/04) may give some readers the mistaken
impression that the University has taken a position in opposition
to HR 3077. This is not the case.

Many at the University, myself included, are concerned that some
interests outside of Congress supporting the Advisory Board
proposal are politically motivated and present a deliberately
distorted picture of the NRCs at Michigan and elsewhere. The
primary motivation of these individuals and groups, I believe, is
to discourage the expression of views with which they disagree.

At the same time, HR 3077 has the support of many in Congress
and elsewhere who understand and value the important work of our
NRCs. The University will continue to work with our congressional
representatives and others whose goal is to enable these centers to
continue and expand their critical contribution to international
education. My colleagues and I are very grateful for this interest
and support.

Mark Tessler

The letter writer is a professor of political science and
vice provost for international affairs at the University.

 

Voting instructions have been confusing at best

To the Daily:

I am concerned that Michigan Secretary of State Terri Land has
inappropriately purged the voter rolls and provided inconsistent
instruction to employees of the state with regard to registering
voters. With regard to the first claim, I recently learned that
Land has purged my name from the voter rolls without justification
or notification. I had registered to vote in October 2003, received
my voter identification card and assumed I would be ready to vote
in November. Fortunately, I double-checked with my city clerk and
learned that the secretary of state had eliminated my name from the
roles for reasons I have not been able to determine. The city clerk
quickly fixed the problem, but one wonders why Land’s office
eliminated names from the voter rolls. Have other voters been
affected? I would encourage voters to contact their city clerks to
ensure they are properly registered.

I also have two student friends who, in attempting to register
to vote at the secretary of state’s office in Ann Arbor, were
given contradictory information about registering to vote in the
state of Michigan. Land’s staff stated that voters need to
have Michigan licenses to vote in the election. Fortunately, our
city clerk clarified our rights in this regard in stating that this
is not a requirement for voting in Michigan. Only Michigan
residency is required to vote.

I am concerned that the secretary of state is providing
inconsistent and misleading information to voters in the state and
arbitrarily eliminating voters from the roles. It is my hope that
Land will direct her staff to provide consistent information to
voters and will not again arbitrarily remove voters from the rolls.
I would hate for there to be any validity to claims of partisanship
in the way Land is managing her office.

Christopher de Fay

Rackham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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