When a student at the University of Texas at Austin complained that her course titled “Communication and Religion” was actually about fringe cults like Wiccans, she kicked off a major change in how much information Texas colleges and universities provide to students about what's in the courses. The Texas legislature soon unanimously passed a law, quickly signed by Governor Rick Perry, stating that all the state’s public universities must post a detailed syllabus for each undergraduate course that includes class requirements, required textbooks and lecture topics. Other information, including each professor’s educational background, published works, salary, previous student evaluations, and the cost of attending classes. All this data must be searchable, and accessible without a password. Access cannot be limited to students, but must be freely available to the public. The sponsor of this law said it is intended to help students and parents make better decisions. If students have more information, they can better pick their courses and their major, and spend their money more efficiently.The new law is very popular with students, but some professors are speaking out against it as an attempt to control curriculum and prevent discussion of controversial topics. The Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors adopted a resolution requesting repeal of the bill, calling it attack on academic freedom.
Some called the professors' reaction “hysterical,” and note that many universities already voluntarily post the same information on the Internet. One former Texas professor, Marvin Olasky, offered his congratulations to the Texas legislature, saying, “Taxpayers should know where their money is going. If propagandistic state-paid professors become fearful enough to add a bit of balance to their reading lists, that's terrific.”
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