An attack on academic freedom

A University of Arizona regent targets Mexican-American studies.

by Daily Editorial Board

A member of the University of Arizona Board of Regents who led the crusade against teaching Mexican-American studies in Arizona high schools is now training his sights on the Mexican-American studies program at the university level. To do so would be a disturbing violation of academic freedom and a terrible precedent to set for other universities nationwide.

John Huppenthal, the regent in question, mentioned in an interview with Fox News Latino that he thought the university curriculum taught students to hate white people, saying “I think that’s where this toxic thing starts from, the universities.” Huppenthal is certainly well versed in toxic things when it comes to education — as the superintendent of public instruction in Arizona, his campaign to end all Mexican-American studies programs in Arizona led to the Tucson Unified School District banning books, including William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

One shudders to think of the damage that translating a book-banning precedent to the university level will do. It is a blatant attempt to censor education, something we should never accept, least of all at an institution of public higher education. For someone in such a high position of authority at a public university to disregard its values so blatantly is sad.

As troubling is the specific focus on a program about a single ethnicity. That the target is only the Mexican-American studies program implies a racist or xenophobic rationale for the targeting. But even without the potentially racist implications of Huppenthal’s attitude, any move to censor education or violate the academic freedom of a public university is insulting and unacceptable.