April 27, 2005

Academic Freedom Upheld

Contact: Luke Haverland (luke.haverland@maryvillecollege.edu)

April 27, 2005

(Maryville, TN)--Last Thursday, April 21, 2005, the Maryville College Student Government Association passed a resolution displaying the student body’s opposition to the ‘Academic Bill of Restrictions’ filed as Tennessee House Bill 432 and Senate Bill 1117. In a decisive showing of commitment to unrestricted scholarship, Maryville College student representatives defended the academic freedom of every collegiate learner in Tennessee.

“Any action that infringes upon the freedom of students to learn without censorship is a threat to any institution of higher learning,” said Heather Graves, Senator of the Maryville College SGA and author of the resolution opposing Senator Finney’s bill. “As a liberal arts college, I feel that protecting these freedoms is of the utmost importance to
Maryville College.”

Located in the foothills of
Appalachia in Blount County, Tennessee, Maryville College is a private, four-year undergraduate institution where academic excellence is of high priority to students, faculty, and staff. Many students are registered voters under the constituency of Senator Raymond Finney, author of the bill that threatens the quality of Tennessee’s collegiate education. As shown by their opposition to Tennessee House Bill 432 and Senate Bill 1117, Maryville College students understand the far-reaching negative effects of a bill “based on political strategy, not a devotion to academic freedom.”


Resolution to Protect Academic Freedom
Passed by the Student Government Association of
Maryville College
April 21, 2005

WHEREAS, the Academic Bill of Restrictions is based on political strategy, not a devotion to academic freedom;

WHEREAS, the best way to protect free speech and academic freedom is not to restrict free speech and academic freedom;

WHEREAS, real academic freedom comes from a classroom free of restrictions;

WHEREAS, good faculty members ought to be judged on whether their scholarship is strong under the standards of their academic discipline and whether they are good teachers – not on whether the views they express or include meet specific guidelines established by state legislatures;

WHEREAS, passage of the Academic Bill of Restrictions would force professors to favor political sensitivity over rigorous scholarship;

WHEREAS, our campus community strives to create a climate that maximizes each individual's ability to receive a quality education, which requires an institution in which diversity is embraced, valued, and celebrated;

WHEREAS, Maryville College currently has an institutional grievance procedure;

LET IT BE RESOLVED that we, the students of Maryville College, are against the ‘Academic Bill of Restrictions,’ filled under Tennessee House Bill 432 and Senate Bill 1117, and believe that instead of weakening the educational environment through censorship, it is important to protect free speech, which is vital to the academic community.

April 26, 2005

Filibuster Must be Saved

Contact: Jessica Causey (jmc3p@mtsu.edu)

Communications Director, TN Federation of College Democrats
April 26, 2005

Nashville, TN)--The filibuster draws on several images, the most memorable being Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Senators, Democrats and Republicans have used the filibuster. Senators use the filibuster as a means to make sure that harmful legislation or appointments do not get through. Sunday, Tennessee Senator, Bill Frist addressed the American people calling for the end of the filibuster in appointing judges contend that opposition to judicial nominees by Senate Democrats is essentially opposition to faith and faith-based moral values.

Conservative Republicans wish to use the Nuclear Option to halt all debate on the floor. The Nuclear Option allows for the majority leader to call on the President of the Senate, Dick Cheney, to end debate and call for a vote.

This is a move by the Bush Administration to get the Conservative Judicial nominees onto the Federal Bench. These judges will preside over cases dealing with Civil Rights, rights to privacy, a woman's right to choose, religious freedoms, etc. Republicans have exaggerated the number of judges seeking approval. Democrats and Republicans have voted for the majority of Bush's nominees. A few judges concern Democrats as well as some Republicans. According to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):

If Republicans are successful at abusing their power and changing the rules in the middle of the game, America will have no power and changing the rules in the middle of the game, America will have no power to stop a handful of radical right-wing Republicans from steamrolling our system of checks and balances and stacking the courts.

For over 100 years, the Senate has used the filibuster to filter out legislation and judicial nominations that would harm the country and the Constitution. Putting an end to the filibuster, would undermine the checks and balance system that the framers of our constitution put in place. In an age where Congressional Leader's ethics are being questioned, checks and balances must remain in place.

April 20, 2005

Bush Visits Smokies

April 22, Earth Day, is just around the corner. Earth Day is a great way to start getting involved in efforts to clean up and protect our environment especially here in East Tennessee right next to the Great Smoky Mountains. There are many opportunities locally to help clean up our environment such as the Little River Round-up sponsored by Keep Blount Beautiful.

Because this region is so beautiful, but also so polluted, President Bush has chosen the Smoky Mountains as his destination for Earth Day. On Friday, April 22, President Bush will travel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with local Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr., possibly to discuss his current environmental legislation to reduce air pollution called the Clear Air Interstate Rule.

According to the EPA’s website, Bush’s proposal, CAIR, will “achieve the largest reduction in air pollution in more than a decade.” However, considering the president’s recent attempt to pass his “Clear Skies” legislation, it seems Congress members are skeptical; “Clear Skies” was deadlocked and failed to pass.

“The air quality situation at the Smokies points to the inadequacies of the administration's policy on clean air," said Don Barger, a spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association.

According to many democrats, President Bush is not doing enough for the environment. Since President Bush took office in 2001, his administration has engineered some of the most environmentally unfriendly policies. Over the past year alone, the Bush administration has weakened Clean Water Act requirements for power plants, cut federal funding by nearly $2 billion for environmental programs, threatened the viability of wetlands across the country and led the push to drill in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Maryville College Democrats want to advocate to all residents living close to the Smokies, environmental policies need to be taken seriously. It is important to be aware of the current legislation concerning air and water pollution and ensure that this country’s leaders are doing everything possible to preserve this beautiful area. As an organization, the MC Democrats are wary of President Bush’s environmental record. In light of Bush’s impending visit to the region, the MC Democrats invite all East Tennesseans to become informed about environmental legislation and to get involved in environmental politics.

--Anna Benson, Vice President
Maryville College Democrats

April 19, 2005

Things to consider...

Both Tennessee State Senator Raymond Finney, and State Representative Stacy Campfield, have introduced legislation that would hinder the academic integrity of colleges and universities across the state of Tennessee. The goal of this bill, according to its sponsors, is to make sure that students that have “different political and religious belief” from their professors do not receive grades based their political affiliation or religious background. However, the bill in itself, outlines more than just how student should be graded. These are just a few things to consider when looking at the “Academic Restriction” Bill:

  • Under this legislation, a “statewide institutional grievance procedure” would be enacted. The problem is that most universities already have an appeal process. This bill does not clarify who will over see the grievance procedure. And given the fact that most college and universities already have this in place, do we really want someone in our state legislature to review our grades?
  • Censorship would be applied to the class room if this bill were to pass. The bill cites that professors shall not ”introduce controversial matter into the classroom.” The Gospel of Thomas being discussed in a New Testament Studies would be an example of a topic that most Christians would find offensive; however, it is needed in the class room since the class discusses how the New Testament came about.
  • Students would be required to be graded on answers to where the professor takes into consideration their “political [and] religious beliefs.” In other words, a Muslim taking part in a Christian studies class would have to be grade on his/her political and religious beliefs. This is just foolish to ask a professor to figure out what every student’s political and religious beliefs are.
  • Just when you thought our state government had enough problems with its budget, they want to stick their hands in student activities fees. According to the “Academic Restriction” Bill, Student Government Associations would be required to distribute fess to student organizations to “maintain a posture of neutrality.” Some organizations have larger memberships and thus require more funds to keep their members active. Let’s also not forget that it isn’t the state’s job to tell us what to do with our student activity funds.
“Alright enough already! Maryville College is a private institution; this wouldn’t even affect us, right?” Actually, there is the chance that we could fall under this legislation. Keep in mind that we do receive state money from the Tennessee Lottery. This money is state government money, and if the state felt that all colleges and universities that received the lotto scholarships must be under this legislation, the lotto scholarships go or the academic integrity goes.

The most import reason we should take action against the “Academic Restriction” Bill is that our State Senator, Raymond Finney, is sponsoring this bill. Hello! Don’t you think it is time that the people that represent you hear you out??

Finally, this isn’t a democrat verse republican issue. This is when we come together as students and realize that censorship should not be place in the class room. Even one of the sponsors, Stacy Campfield put it best (I am sure it will be removed from his blog shortly), “When there is a free flow of ideas, thoughts, and feelings regardless of point of view people are more informed and the cream tends to rise.”

“So what can I do?” Well, there are two things you can do. You can start by signing the petition that will be handed to Senator Finney when he visits
Maryville College on April 29th. The second thing you can do is contact your SGA Representatives and Senators and tell them to sign the a resolution that would protect our college from this legislation. This resolution will be considered on April 21st or the 28th (depending on when SGA brings it up for discussion). The resolution basically says that we, as students of Maryville College, are against the proposed legislation.

Let’s come together as a student body and community and show the state that we do care about academic scholarship!

--Maryville College Democrats

April 18, 2005

College Democrats Celebrate Earth Day

Contact: Anna Benson (anna.benson@maryvillecollege.edu)

April 18, 2005

(Maryville, TN)--This week the Maryville College Democrats will take part in a celebration of Earth Day and work toward improving the streams of Blount County.

“Our environment is something that we should individually look after and care for,” said College Democrat President Alex Youn. “It is our responsibility to stand up and protect our environment for future generations if this current administration will not.”

Leading up to a week worth of discussion on the environment, their will be an outdoor festival on the Pearsons Hall lawn sponsored by the College’s Environmental Action Team (EAT), a group of students with the common bond of concern for the environment. The event will feature music, organic food, an environmental speaker, displays and “Environmental Jeopardy,” a take-off of the television game show.

Earth Day will kick off with an introduction by guest speaker Chris Irwin of the organization Food Not Bombs of Knoxville. Food Not Bombs is a global movement that began in Boston in the early 1980s. The Knoxville organization, which provides free organically grown vegetarian meals to the hungry and homeless in Knoxville once per week, became active in 1995.

Following Irwin’s introduction, acoustical music by Maryville College student Chris Shibley and friends will continue until 3 p.m. at which time the Christian hip hop band Scratchtrack will take the stage. Scratchtrack’s appearance is being sponsored by the College’s Student Programming Board.

On Saturday, April 23rd, the College Democrats will be participating in the Little River Round Up, an annual event to help protect, preserve and enhance the Little River—a Blount County Treasure. Starting at 8:00am, there will be a variety of volunteer opportunities to help clean up the Little River. The evening will be surrounded by the sounds of bluegrass music from Jay Clark and the CC String Band, while home cooked barbeque is served.

For more information on activates of the Maryville College Democrats during Earth Day week, please contact Anna Benson at anna.benson@maryvillecollege.edu.