Mission Statement Act


Mission statements are not mere boilerplate in higher education. Activists who seek to politicize a college or university often seize such statements to call for radical changes in institutional policy.  They then work with accreditors to pressure the institution to adopt these changes.  

Colleges and universities are vulnerable to this pressure because they must be accredited to be eligible to receive federal student loans and aid, and the regional accreditors all give primary emphasis to the institution’s own mission statement.  Altering its mission statement, in other words, is the single easiest way to redirect the energy, attention, and resources of a college or university. Campus activists have long understood this and thus waged campaigns to retire time-tested missions focused on intellectual freedom, the pursuit of truth, and the cultivation of civic virtue with mission statements focused on such matters as social justice, climate change, and identity formation. 

Once a university commits itself to a concept such as diversity or social justice, accreditors can require it to adopt general education requirements that match; hire new administrators to carry out these mandates; and establish the entire apparatus of the illiberal establishment. A radicalized mission statement commits a university to politicize higher education.

Members of the radical education establishment can pose to the public as faithful stewards of the new mission, saying in effect, We have to make this change because accreditors required us to.  Activists use the combination of mission statements and accreditation as a way to politicize public universities while avoiding accountability for these changes.

Other apparently innocuous commitments also lead to this politicization. Of these the most important is a commitment to retention or student success. Such a commitment, absent a stronger commitment to rigorous, equally applied standards, generally leads universities to lower their admission standards, relax grading and prerequisites, divert resources to support the retention of unqualified students, and tempt unqualified students to go more deeply into debt. This last item is especially concerning. Students who have no reasonable expectation of graduating from a college are often encouraged to take additional student loans that they will struggle to pay off. A college’s commitment to “retention” also leads universities to build an ever-expanding bureaucracy of people who, on principle, deny that any student is less prepared for college than another student. Mission statements that dedicate a university to retention or student success, as much as mission statements that dedicate a university to diversity or social justice, politicize America’s universities.

We provide here a model mission statement for the {Board of Regents} of the {State} public university system, each institution of higher education that receives state funding, and each school, office, and department within each institution of higher education that receives state funding. This mission statement commits these entities to the free and unpoliticized pursuit of truth and ensures that any commitment to concepts such as social justice or student success cannot override this fundamental commitment.

Mission statements always matter. They provide direction for a university. But the radical establishment’s weaponization of the accreditation process makes it vital for state policymakers to reform the mission statements of the public state university system, and all its administrative components

Model Legislative Text

Section A [“Mission Statement”]

  1. The {Board of Regents} of the {State} public university system, each institution of higher education that receives state funding, and each school, office, and department within each institution of higher education that receives state funding, shall incorporate the following statements into their Mission Statements.
    1. We affirm that {Entity} will educate students by means of free, open, and rigorous intellectual inquiry to seek the truth.
    2. We affirm our duty to equip students with the intellectual skills they need to reach their own, informed conclusions on matters of social and political importance.
    3. We affirm our duty to ensure that no aspects of {Entity} life, within or outside the classroom, require, favor, disfavor, or prohibit speech or action to support any political, social, or religious belief.
    4. We affirm our commitment to create a community dedicated to an ethic of civil and free inquiry, which respects the autonomy of each member, supports individual capacities for growth, and tolerates the differences in opinion that shall naturally obtain in a public university community.
    5. We affirm our duty to accept only students who are fully prepared to succeed academically at undergraduate coursework.
    6. We affirm our duty to treat all faculty, staff, and students as individuals, to hold them to equal standards, and to provide them equality of opportunity.
    7. These values take priority over any other value we may also adopt.

Section B [“Severability”]

If any provision of this chapter, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this chapter and the application of its provisions to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.

The National Association of Scholars, in consultation with other supporters and friends of the Civics Alliance, drafted these model bills to translate into legislative language the principles in the Civics Alliance’s Civics Curriculum Statement & Open Letter. Just as these bills have been drafted with the expectation that different states will modify them as they see fit, they also have been drafted with the expectation that not every supporter of the Civics Alliance will endorse these bills or every part of them. Individual Civics Alliance signatories and supporters should not be assumed to have endorsed these bills, unless they say so explicitly.