Pope Center Conference Saturday at N.C. State

RALEIGH – Academic freedom and the rights of students to express their views on different subjects will be among the topics discussed during the annual John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy Conference Saturday at the Jane S. McKimmon Center at N.C. State University.

The annual conference will be highlighted by a keynote address by Dr. Roger Meiners, Goolsby Distinguished Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and author of Faulty Towers. Also speaking is David Horowitz, an author and developer of the Academic Bill of Rights, which has been written into law in several states.

This year’s conference is titled “Freedom and the American Campus” and will include discussions on the freedom of academic discourse in American colleges and universities, according to George C. Leef, executive director of the Pope Center. Registration is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and is scheduled to conclude at 3 p.m., with lunch being served at noon. The cost to attend the conference is $20, with registrations still available.

Leef said that the American public holds certain expectations of higher education, but those often are not adhered to by universities, administrations and faculty members.

“Most Americans would agree that college campuses should be placed where there is a completely free exchange of ideas – where people can argue for their ideas of the truth without fear of repercussion and where there are no barriers to entry into the marketplace of ideas,” Leef said. “Alas, that is often not the case these days.”

Leef cites as an example from the recent book Trembling in the Ivory Tower by Kenneth Lasson to make his point.

“Professor Kenneth Lasson observers ‘The general counsels at a number of universities now caution against catalogue language representing their clients’ devotion to free speech – lest they might be required by courts to honor such promises.”

Following a welcome address by Leef, Dr. Jerry L. Martin, chairman of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, will open the conference with an address entitled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Truth.”

The conference will then move to its first of three scheduled discussions on freedom on the American campus, “Are Freedom of Speech and Thought Under Attack?” This panel will comprise Professor Alan Kors of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Christina Jeffrey of the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg, and Professor David Beito of the University of Alabama.

The second session will address the question “Do American Students Learn Enough about Freedom?” Speaking during this discussion will be Professor Michael Gillespie of Duke University, Smith College economics professor James Miller, and Professor Michael DeBow of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.

Following a break for lunch, Professor Meiners will present the conference’s keynote address. He will speak on the topic of “Higher Education – Will Market Competition Succeed Where Subsidies Have Failed?”

In the afternoon, Horowitz, president for The Center for the Study of Popular Culture, will discuss his proposed Academic Bill of Rights.

The conference will conclude with a panel discussion entitled “What is to be done?” Speakers for the final session are Professor Norman Hurley of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Carol Sobel, a first amendment attorney.

Shannon Blosser (sblosser@popecenter.org) is a staff writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.