State policymakers usually possess limited power to exercise oversight over the public universities because do not know what is taught in the classrooms. State policymakers should require professors to inform the public what they teach in their classes. Such information will allow state policymakers to know whether institutions of higher education have complied with the spirit of education reform laws such as the Core Curriculum Act, the American History Act, and the Heritage Certificates Act. Such information also will give students information to help them choose classes that actually educate rather than disseminating radical propaganda.
Our model bill requires each public university to put on its Internet website a syllabus for each undergraduate course. We have copied this model bill almost verbatim from Texas’ excellent law. We have made one important change: we require that the syllabus be posted seven days before the first day of classes for the semester rather than seven days after. This change allows students to choose better courses before they are locked into a class schedule for the semester.
Our model bill requires an administrator to be responsible for enforcing this bill. Policymakers could designate the Ombudsman to be the responsible administrator if they pass the Ombudsman Act.
Model Legislative Text
Section A [“Syllabus Transparency”]
- Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall make available to the public on the institution’s Internet website a syllabus for each undergraduate course offered for credit by the institution that:
- provides the name of the instructor;
- provides a brief description of each major course requirement, including each major assignment and examination;
- lists any required or recommended reading; and
- provides a general description of the subject matter of each lecture or discussion.
- The information required by Subsection (1) must be:
- accessible from the institution’s Internet website home page by use of not more than three links;
- searchable by keywords and phrases; and
- accessible to the public without requiring registration or use of a user name, a password, or another use identification.
- Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall make the information required by Subsection (1) available not later than the seventh day before the first day of classes for the semester or other academic term during which the course is offered. The institution shall continue to make the information available on the institution’s Internet website until at least the second anniversary of the date on which the institution initially posted the information.
- Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall update the information required by Subsection (1) as soon as practicable after the information changes.
- The governing body of each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall designate an administrator to be responsible for ensuring implementation of this section. The administrator may assign duties under this section to one or more administrative employees.
- Not later than January 1 of each year, each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall submit a written report regarding the institution’s compliance with this section to the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the presiding officer of each legislative standing committee with primary jurisdiction over higher education.
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.
EXISTING STATE STATUTES Texas: Texas Education Code § 51.974 [Internet Access to Course Information]