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Senate Bill worries professors at CSULB

SB 677 died in the committee, but it fueled larger concerns of academic freedom.

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Senate Bill worries professors at CSULB

Stephanie Hak

Stephanie Hak

Stephanie Hak

Elizabeth Campos, Assistant News Editor

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A law that would have allowed students to record their professors in a classroom without their consent died in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, but the author of the bill isn’t giving up just yet.

Some professors at Cal State Long Beach are concerned about their academic freedom, if this bill returns to committee again and passes. For these professors, this bill could have posed a threat to the way they do their jobs.

“To me [academic freedom] is the ability to teach various perspectives and challenge students to think outside what they’ve experienced,” said Alfredo Carlos, a Chicano and Latino Studies and political science professor.

After an Orange Coast College student was suspended for video recording a professor talking negatively about President Donald Trump and posting it online, Orange County senator John Moorlach proposed Senate Bill 677.

SB 677 would’ve allowed students to use a recording device in a classroom without consent of the professor if the student believes it necessary to record an action that they consider violating state, federal or local policies.

The bill did not receive enough votes. Catherine Bird, Legislative Director of Moorlach’s office, said that there were two votes in favor and one against, but the rest of the committee decided not to vote, thus leaving itto die. The senate bill needed a total of four votes in favor.

According to international studies professor Yousef Baker, the underlying reasons of this legislation go beyond policing classroom activity.

“I don’t teach classes to help a Republican or Democratic party. My aim is not to support a party, it is to teach how to think critically,” Baker said.

But behind the recording of this viral video, there’s also a fight for free speech. Moorlach proposed the bill to grant whistleblower protection to students.

Both Bird and a fact sheet about the bill explain that whistleblower protection is granted to employees and if considered necessary, it should be granted to students as well.

But others think that a legislation like this could bring a chilling effect to the classrooms.

A statement released by the California State University about their position on SB 677 states that what a student records during a professor’s class can be used “in a grievance or disciplinary action against a professor whose perspective the person/student may not like.”

The statement says that this can impact the professor’s choice about class content, class lecture and discussion, guest speakers and more.

“Professors are supposed to expose students to different perspectives so that they become critical and independent thinkers and informed citizens. This legislation would put professors in an ideological straightjacket” declared the Academic Senate of the California State University in their statement about the legislation.  

Baker also referred to the reasons behind the bill as “dubious claims.” He said that the people behind SB 677 want to be able to police content and neutralize ideas at a university.

In addition, Carlos thinks that this bill would have also impacted the student’s’ education.

“We need to create a culture in universities where we’re OK with having disagreement,” he said. “… We need liberal people saying liberal things and conservative people saying conservative things.”

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