Legislative Priorities for the 109th Congress

Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom

Promote First Amendment rights and oppose efforts to limit freedom of expression and related academic freedom rights. Support legislation to amend provisions of the USA Patriot Act that interfere with academic freedom on campuses. Protect breadth of intellectual balance in colleges and universities by opposing politically inspired restrictions on curriculum and other academic activities. Defend the intellectual integrity of academic science by opposing political intrusions into scientific policy development, and ensure access to accurate information. Oppose other political or governmental dictation of intellectual or academic activities. Support legislative efforts to protect privacy and appropriate publication and sharing of research data, and strongly oppose legislative efforts that undermine them. Promote federal funding for programs in the humanities and the sciences, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, including full range of Smithsonian Institution activities, the full funding of scholarly research activities sponsored by federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Higher Education Act

Support reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, preserving the strengths of the proven programs administered by the Department of Education, as described in the Act. The reauthorization debate needs to address four critical themes:

  • Increase access to a college and university education;
    Support amendments that will improve access to higher education for those who need financial assistance, especially increases in the Pell grant program, direct student loans, campus-based programs and TRIO, and ensure that Congress fully fund these programs
  • Protect the quality of higher education programs;
    Support measures that preserve and promote the quality of higher education, including the use of new technology where claims for effectiveness still need critical examination. Insist on the central role of faculty in evaluating the academic integrity of transfer credits, and resist federal mandates to standardize procedures.
  • Promote the diversity of our higher education system;
    Support and strengthen programs for institutions serving traditionally under-represented populations. Continue support for programs to assist graduate students and to improve access for minorities and women to graduate and professional schools. Maintain the diversity of institutional mission that has been one of the hallmarks of the American higher education scene.
  • Maintain support for the openness of the academic community.
    Support international education and multiple language programs, and other methods of enriching and broadening the freedom and openness of the higher education experience.

International Education and Scholarship

Work to ensure recognition of the critical importance for the advancement of knowledge that comes from the insights of students and scholars from across the globe. Insist upon fair and timely procedures for non-citizens who seek visas or other approvals to study, teach, or collaborate with researchers in the United States. Advocate the clarification and fair implementation of programs that have been approved, such as SEVIS and VISA MANTIS, to monitor students and scholars from other nations, and resist administrative restrictions on publication and dissemination of scholarship.

The Association also strongly supports the following platform which includes values and issues critically important to the professoriate:

Intellectual Property and Publishing Issues

Monitor and protect the principles of academic freedom, faculty ownership of intellectual property, access to information in the development of treaties and new legislation affecting intellectual property issues, including issues arising in the development of technological innovations. Promote legislation to change the tax treatment of inventory to enhance the availability of textbooks and reference works.

Distance Education

Monitor and shape the development of legislation and regulations governing the use of distance education, to ensure that academic and educational quality are not compromised by the use of technology-based instruction.

Labor Law Reform

Support legislation to overturn the Yeshiva decision, and maintain support for the legal right of faculty to take collective action, including collective bargaining. Oppose legislation that would interfere with rights of faculty to organize, to determine democratically how they participate in governance, and to exercise their freedom of association.

Health Care

Monitor the implications of the crisis in health care financing on higher education, and support efforts to alleviate those effects. The increased cost of, and decreased access to adequate health care threatens the viability and even the existence of smaller institutions, the ability of academic medical centers to provide adequate levels of medical education, and the opportunity for institutions to provide necessary level of faculty compensation and benefits.

Diversity and Equality of Opportunity in Education

Promote efforts to increase the diversity of college and university faculty and student populations, as a means of improving and enriching the experience of higher education. Continue commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, affirmative action, non-discrimination and civil and human rights, including support for programs for women and minorities, and opposition to the designation of an official language.

The mission of the Committee on Government Relations is to advocate positions and achieve goals at all levels of government that are beneficial to the higher education community, guided by the principles of the American Association of University Professors.