Describing itself as a coalition of "student, faculty and civil liberty organizations," Free Exchange on Campus (FEC) defines its mission as "advocating for the rights of students and faculty to hear and express a full range of ideas unencumbered by political or ideological interference."
FEC was co-founded by the American Association of University Professors, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of Teachers, Campus Progress (a project of the Center for American Progress), the Center for Campus Free Speech, the National Education Association’s Student Program, People For the American Way (and its “Young People For” program), and the United States Student Association. The foregoing organizations are also part of the coalition's current membership.
Additional FEC coalition members include the AFL-CIO (and its Department for Professional Employees), the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, the Free Press, Mobilize.org, the Modern Language Association, the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the National Women’s Studies Association, the National Writers Union, the Progressive States Network, the Roosevelt Institution, and the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press.
FEC was created solely to oppose the efforts of one individual, David Horowitz, who had recently initiated a campaign to persuade universities to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR). This ABOR seeks to: (a) prevent professors from politically or ideologically indoctrinating their students in the classroom; (b) promote a classroom "environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech"; (c) protect professors and students alike from being punished for their political views or ideas; and (d) "expose students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses."
According to FEC, the Academic Bill of Rights is unjustifiably "premised on an argument that professors presenting new or controversial ideas will 'indoctrinate' students or make the classroom so uncomfortable that students aren't able to learn. Proponents [of ABOR] ... claim to want to protect college students from political, religious and ideological interference. Students are far smarter and more capable than [ABOR's] proponents give them credit for ..."
Another top priority for the fledgling FEC was to denounce David Horowitz's 2006 book The Professors, which spotlights what it calls "several disturbing patterns of university life," including: "promotion [of professors] far beyond [their] academic achievement"; professors "teaching subjects outside [their] professional qualifications and expertise for the purpose of political propaganda"; professors "making racist and ethnically disparaging remarks in public without eliciting reaction by university administrations, as long as those remarks are directed at unprotected groups, e.g., Armenians, whites, Christians and Jews"; and "the overt introduction [by professors] of political agendas into the classroom and the abandonment of any pretense of academic discipline or scholarly inquiry."
FEC launched its first campaign on March 16, 2006 to coincide with the publication of Horowitz's book. By FEC's telling, Horowitz's depictions of leftwing bias in higher education "bear no resemblance to what college faculty and staff see in their work as professionals on campus." Adds FEC:
"By every reasonable measure, America's colleges and universities are considered the most diverse, challenging, and successful higher education institutions in the world. Higher education faculty members are trained professionals who bring a great variety of scholarly viewpoints to the classroom based on their disciplinary knowledge.... ABOR ... seem[s] not only unnecessary and insulting to the competency of college faculty, but even downright dangerous to their ability to perform their job."
FEC's contention that leftwing political bias does not thoroughly pervade university faculties is debunked here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Free Exchange on Campus is a well-funded coalition. As of 2005, FEC member Campus Progress held assets of $1.25 million; U.S. PIRG, $6.2 million (in 2005); the American Association of University Professors, $5 million (in 2004); People for the American Way, $3.1 million (in 2004); the National Education Association, $89.3 million (in 2004); the American Federation of Teachers, $67.6 million (in 2004); and the ACLU Foundation, $196.1 million (in 2005).
FEC is also funded by George Soros's Open Society Institute and the American Federation of Teachers.