Where Has Academic Freedom Gone in Texas?
by Henry Morris III, D.Min. *
As many of you may know, the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) has recently been denied the right to grant degrees in Texas. Although this is a temporary setback for us, the situation has ramifications far beyond the immediate effect it has on our ministry.
The ICRGS has offered Master's degrees in California since 1981. After moving to Texas, the school's first step was submitting an application to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) for a Certificate of Authority to grant degrees. After clearing this hurdle, we could then apply for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
In November 2007, a THECB-appointed Site Team visited the Dallas campus to evaluate our program, and subsequently recommended approval of our application. In December 2007, we met with the THECB Advisory Committee and they also recommended approval to THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes.
As word of our application spread, however, Commissioner Paredes began receiving outside pressure. In January 2008, the ICRGS Dean and faculty members met with Commissioner Paredes, who directed them to provide additional documentation to ensure compliance with state education standards. This documentation1 was submitted on March 26, 2008.
The final consideration of our application was addressed by the Committee on Academic Excellence and Research on April 23. At this meeting, Commissioner Paredes read his recommendation--prepared in advance, and in opposition to the recommendations of both the THECB Site Team and Advisory Committee--against ICRGS, a decision that was upheld by the full Board on April 24.
A number of questions have been raised by the way the THECB handled our application process. Commissioner Paredes rejected the favorable reports of his own team members as "flawed." He then privately convened a panel (in essence, an ad hoc advisory committee) of scientists, who declared that the ICRGS program could not be considered "science" because it was not based on evolution. ICRGS scientists and faculty were not included in or allowed to respond to this ad hoc advisory committee.
The THECB also authorized an unusual 30-minute "Public Hearing" before the April 23 committee meeting, allowing (among others) various political activists to launch ad hominem attacks against the credibility and reputation of the ICRGS and its faculty--who were not allowed to respond to their attackers.
At the April 24 Board meeting, Assistant Commissioner Joe Stafford read into record a Texas Administrative Code statute about preventing public deception in the face of "fraudulent or substandard" college and university degrees. ICRGS representatives present at the meeting were not allowed to respond to this mischaracterization of the graduate program, despite asking for permission to do so.
If you have seen the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (reviewed in our April Acts & Facts), you've been introduced to the issues surrounding the THECB's denial. Although the movie addresses Intelligent Design rather than creationism, it spotlights the same viewpoint discrimination that results in the suppression of academic freedom, the stifling of scientific inquiry--and ultimately, the loss of even greater freedoms.
In response to the THECB decision, on May 4 ICR launched a full-page ad titled "Never Stop Questioning" in major newspapers in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, presenting basic questions of the creation vs. evolution debate and directing readers to answers on our website. We have also issued press releases in an attempt to provide media outlets with more balanced reporting than they have apparently had access to up to now.
ICR will submit an administrative appeal petition to the THECB. We are prayerfully considering the possibilities of further due process within Texas. We covet your prayers and continued support as well--and especially pray that no matter what we do, our Lord and Creator will be glorified.
1. The ICRGS report is available as a pdf document on our website at www.icr.org/academicfreedom.
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris III, H. 2008. Where Has Academic Freedom Gone in Texas? Acts & Facts. 37 (6): 9.