School of Intellectual Freedom Act


The survival of American liberty depends upon its public universities continuing to teach their students to cherish the Western and the American heritage, to preserve the institutions that preserve our liberty, and to practice liberty in their daily lives. Yet the bulk of higher education faculty either have abandoned their commitments to intellectual freedom, the Western heritage, and the American heritage, or lack the courage to stand up to the activist establishment determined to discard all three. Universities need to rededicate themselves to these principles, but the current faculty and administrative structures make it unlikely that any state law will change the ways courses actually are taught. A law requiring the teaching of American history likely will result in a course devoted to describing American history as a catalogue of sin. Policymakers must change the administrative structure of higher education to change the substance of what professors teach in college classrooms.

Our model bill, based on the 2023 Ohio legislation which created five independent schools in Ohio public universities, creates an autonomous School of Intellectual Freedom (SIF) at the flagship institution of the state public university system. The SIF, which should be staffed with courageous dissenters from the activist establishment, will have the administrative autonomy that allows it to teach proper courses on the nature of intellectual freedom, the Western heritage, and the American heritage. The SIF will also be tasked to report annually to state policymakers. This will allow SIF personnel to report if the activist establishment has attempted to abrogate their autonomy or subvert their mission.

The state of Arizona founded the first independent school, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) with an appropriation of $3 million in 2016 and continued that donation annually for several years. A SIF will have the power to seek private and external donations, and ideally will be able to wean itself from taxpayer support in time. Policymakers, however, should anticipate spending at least that much money to make a SIF successful. $5-$6 million annually for at least 10 years probably is a practical minimum.

Policymakers might consider founding a SIF at each campus of the public university system—perhaps with some cost savings, if the SIF at the flagship campus provides administrative services for its peers at other campuses.

The School of Intellectual Freedom Act is also intended to make several other model bills function more effectively. The Campus Intellectual Diversity Act creates an Office of Public Policy Events; that would operate most efficiently if it were housed in an autonomous SIF. Likewise the Ombudsman Act creates an Ombudsman, who would work with particular diligence if he also were housed in an autonomous SIF. The Core Curriculum Act, the American History Act, and the Heritage Certificates Act all direct students to take in the Western and the American heritages, but the intent of these Acts can be subverted if the activist establishment is allowed to govern their operation. An autonomous SIF can guarantee that these three acts to reform university curriculum work as intended.

Existing Independent Schools

ArizonaSchool of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State University

FloridaHamilton Center, University of Florida

North Carolina: School of Civic Life and Leadership, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Ohio: Five Schools authorized, at Ohio State University, University of Toledo, Miami University, Cleveland State University, University of Cincinnati

TennesseeInstitute of American Civics, University of Tennessee Knoxville

TexasCivitas Institute, University of Texas at Austin


Section A

  1. The {School of Intellectual Freedom} is established as an independent academic unit within {Flagship Institution of Higher Education}, physically located in the college of arts and sciences. The center shall conduct teaching and research in the historical ideas, traditions, and texts that have shaped the American constitutional order and society.

2. The center shall establish bylaws requiring the center to do all of the following:

a. Educate students by means of free, open, and rigorous intellectual inquiry to seek the truth;

b. Affirm its duty to equip students with the skills, habits, and dispositions of mind they need to reach their own informed conclusions on matters of social and political importance;

c. Affirm the value of intellectual diversity in higher education and aspire to enhance the intellectual diversity of the university;

d.Affirm a commitment to create a community dedicated to an ethic of civil and free inquiry, which respects the intellectual freedom of each member, supports individual capacities for growth, and welcomes the differences of opinion that naturally shall exist in a public university community.

The requirements prescribed under divisions (A)(2)(a) to (d) of this section shall take priority over any other bylaws adopted by the center.

3. The center shall be able to receive and administer private and external donations and gifts.

4. Monies appropriated to the center, and all private and external donations to the center, shall be used only for the direct operation of the Center and may not be used for indirect costs of the university. 

5. The board of trustees of the university may name the center in accordance with the philanthropic naming policies and practices of the university.

Section B

The center shall be an independent academic unit physically located at the college of arts and sciences with the authority to house tenure-track faculty who hold their appointments within the center. Faculty appointed to the center shall not be required, but may, hold joint appointments within any other division of the university. Not fewer than ten tenure-track faculty positions shall be allotted to teach under the center, to be filled through external recruitment. No faculty outside of the center shall have the authority to block faculty hires into the center.

Section C

  1. The center shall offer instruction in all of the following:

(a) The books and major debates which form the intellectual foundation of free societies, especially that of the United States;

(b) The principles, ideals, and institutions of the American constitutional order;

(c) The foundations of responsible leadership and informed citizenship.

2. The center also shall focus on both of the following:

(a) Offering university-wide programming related to the values of free speech and civil discourse;

(b) Expanding the intellectual diversity of the university’s academic community.

Section D

  1. Not later than December 31, 2023, the talent, compensation, and governance committee of the board of trustees of the university shall appoint, with the advice and consent of the senate, a seven-member center academic council. An initial member shall not begin service until confirmed by the senate. Four members shall form a quorum.

2. The academic council shall be comprised of scholars with relevant expertise and experience. Not more than one member of the council may be an employee of the university. Best efforts shall be made to have not fewer than three members of the advisory board be from {State}.

3. Three members of the academic council shall serve initial terms of two years and four members shall serve initial terms of four years, which the members shall determine at their first meeting, and select replacements for vacant seats.

Section E

  1. The academic council established under division (D) of this section shall conduct a nationwide search for candidates for the director of the center and shall strictly adhere to all relevant state and federal laws. The academic council shall submit to the president of the university a list of finalists from which the president shall select and appoint a director, subject to approval by the board of trustees. Future directors shall be chosen in the same manner.

2. The director shall have the protection of tenure or tenure eligibility. The director shall consult with the dean of the college of arts and sciences; however, the director shall report directly to the provost or the president of the university.

3. The director shall have the sole and exclusive authority to invite guest speakers, to manage the recruitment and hiring process and to extend offers for employment for all faculty and staff of the center, and to terminate employment of all staff. The director shall oversee, develop, and approve the center’s curriculum. The center shall be granted the authority to offer courses and develop certificate, minor, and major programs as well as graduate programs, and offer degrees.

Section F

The director of the center shall submit an annual report to the board of trustees of the university and the general assembly. The report shall provide a full account of the center’s achievements, opportunities, challenges, and obstacles in the development of this academic unit.

Section G

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.


Florida: Florida Statutes 1004.6496 [Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education]

Ohio: Senate Bill 117 (2023) [Establish certain entities at Ohio State and University of Toledo]

TennesseeTenn. Code § 49-9-1101 [Establishment of an institute of American civics]

Texas: Senate Bill 2020 (2023) [An Act relating to the establishment of The University of Texas at Austin Civitas School of Civic and International Leadership]

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.