NEW YORK, NY (April 7, 2014) – The National Association of Scholars (NAS), which works to foster intellectual freedom in America’s colleges and universities, has called into question how liberal arts colleges uphold the principles of liberty and fairness.
“American liberal arts colleges pride themselves on diversity, fairness and open-mindedness; but they fail at all three, particularly when it comes to political and religious views,” said Dr. Peter Wood, President of NAS and main author of What Does Bowdoin Teach?
Published by NAS, What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students is an in-depth examination of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Wood and his colleagues studied Bowdoin to create a benchmark for liberal arts colleges across the country.
According to the study, “Bowdoin believes that it exemplifies open-mindedness, but it is in fact a community that shuts out many legitimate ideas.” The report cites the scarcity of conservative faculty at the college. Four out of 182 full-time faculty members appear conservative. One-hundred percent of donations from Bowdoin faculty members to presidential candidates in the last election went to President Obama.
The report also took notice of the college’s harsh treatment of students and others who uphold religious views that are not popular at the secular institution. “Being openly religious at Bowdoin can be difficult,” said a Bowdoin student who requested that he be quoted anonymously. The student told the study’s co-author, Michael Toscano, that many of his fellow students respond to his Catholic views about abortion with “disdain.”
In 2011, Bowdoin retroactively revoked funding for an event in which a local pastor had given an invited sermon on campus because he explained his interpretation of the Biblical view of same-sex marriage. More recently, the college banned a husband and wife who had advised the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship for nearly a decade. They were dismissed for refusing to sign an agreement that said they would not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in choosing student leaders for their group.
“In matters involving political views and free expression of religious beliefs Bowdoin draws a sharp distinction between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable,” explained Dr. Wood. “The ideals of academic and intellectual freedom do not mean much when they are used solely to protect the majority’s preferences. The college goes out of its way to create a hostile environment for conservatives and those who uphold traditional religious faiths.”
The NAS firmly believes that a college campus should be a place where students from across the political spectrum and from all religious backgrounds are allowed to express their opinions and be treated fairly.
“Open disdain toward religious views can be considered harassment similar to disdain for different races or minorities,” stated Herbert London, Chairman of the National Association of Scholars and president of the London Center for Policy Research. “However, it is evident that Bowdoin places an emphasis on what it considers to be valuable in terms of identity, and conservatives and certain religious groups fall outside of this definition. I believe a truly liberal arts college needs to reevaluate its environment and create an open dialogue where all students are granted liberty and treated fairly.”
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The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is an independent membership association of academics and others working to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America’s colleges and universities. The NAS advocates for excellence by encouraging commitment to high intellectual standards, individual merit, institutional integrity, good governance, and sound public policy. For more information on the NAS, visit www.nas.org.