Columbia University: Ideological Litmus Tests at Teachers College
Columbia University's Teachers College requires students to demonstrate a "commitment to social justice" and employs "dispositions," which it defines as "observable behaviors that fall within the law and involve the use of certain skills," to evaluate students. These dispositions, "expected of Teachers College candidates and graduates" and "assessed at each transition point," include "Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice." FIRE criticized these and other requirements in several letters to Columbia University and Teachers College, arguing that evaluating students according to their commitment to an officially defined ideal is a violation of a student's right to decide for himself or herself what is and is not socially just. Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman told FIRE that the policy would be reevaluated, but there has been no change in this policy.
- "FIRE letter to Columbia University Teachers College Trustees, March 12, 2008," March 12, 2008
- "Letter from Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman to FIRE, May 11, 2007," May 11, 2007
- "FIRE Letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman, May 9, 2007," May 9, 2007
- "FIRE in ‘The New York Times’ on Free Speech at Columbia," October 23, 2006: Columbia University’s recent struggles with free speech were covered in the pages of The New York Times on Sunday, with an article concentrating on questions about Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s commitment to free speech on campus. In the article, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff points out that while Bollinger’s public statements endorse free speech, questions remain as to whether Bollinger can “walk the walk” when it comes to issues of free expression on campus. FIRE is continuing its efforts to ensure that Columbia lives up to Bollinger’s promises of freedom of thought and expression with a follow-up letter sent to the university last week asking, once again, that Columbia’s Teachers College change evaluation standards that amount to a political litmus test for education graduate students.
- "Response from Columbia's Teachers College, October 20, 2006," October 20, 2006
- "FIRE Letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman, October 18, 2006," October 18, 2006
- "New York Civil Rights Coalition Statement on 'Thought Reform' at Columbia's Teachers College," October 11, 2006
- "Columbia University Ignores Objections to Thought Reform Amid Free Speech Controversy," October 10, 2006: FIRE is calling on Teachers College—Columbia University’s graduate school of education—to abandon its ideological litmus tests for students. These policies are manifestly inconsistent with Teachers College’s written promises of free speech and academic freedom as well as with Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s recent statements on the importance of free expression at Columbia University.
- "Teachers College 'Conceptual Framework'," October 10, 2006
- "FIRE Letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger, September 15, 2006," September 15, 2006
- "Silence From Teachers College," by William Creeley, April 16, 2008: Nearly a year after Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman indicated to FIRE that changes in the school's use of "dispositions" were forthcoming, the silence from Teachers College remains deafening. To our great disappointment, FIRE has, as of yet, received no response to our most recent letter to Teachers College and its Board of Trustees. In the letter, sent March 12, 2008, FIRE asked, yet again, that the school cease its current practice of evaluating students according to their adherence to a predetermined institutional ideology. Teachers College's continuing refusal to eliminate its reliance on "dispositions" as evaluative criteria means that Teachers College students remain in effect, subject to an ideological litmus test as a condition of matriculation, despite the school's public commitments to free expression and academic freedom.
- "Campus Alert: Think like us--or else,"
New York Post, June 4, 2007
- "Social justice and political orthodoxy,"
by Greg Lukianoff, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 30, 2007
- "Quick Hits: Columbia University ignores objections to thought reform amid free speech controversy,"
The Pennsylvania Independent, November 7, 2006
- "A Columbia expert on free speech is accused of speaking too softly,"
by Tamar Lewin and Karen Arenson, The New York Times, October 22, 2006
- "Letting the PC slip show,"
by Mona Charen, Townhall.com, October 13, 2006
- "Litmus lesson: Teachers College's political tests,"
by Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley, New York Post, October 12, 2006
- "Merit at Columbia,"
The New York Sun, October 12, 2006
- "University policy draws fire from free-speech advocates,"
by Eliana Johnson, The New York Sun, October 12, 2006