New ‘Learning Outcomes’ at UW-Oshkosh

By on May 29, 2008

Something isn’t right with student rights at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

FIRE has learned that the university’s Faculty Senate "has approved a set of UW Oshkosh Student Learning Outcomes, which provide a framework that represents how a liberally educated college graduate should operate." The learning outcomes include "knowledge of sustainability and its applications" under the umbrella of "responsibility"a requirement similar to that formerly in place at the University of Delaware (and possibly still in placewe’ll be keeping a close eye on U Del’s new program).

This new threat to student rights at UW-Oshkosh comes in addition to a number of unconstitutional speech codes already maintained by the university (check out UW-Oshkosh’s Spotlight entry for a full summary of its speech codes). Among other things, University policy requires "an environment free of insulting and demeaning comments and epithets based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, military status, socioeconomic status, family status, or political views." Ironically, the same policy promises an environment free of "any official speech codes," as if saying so somehow magically makes it true despite numerous written policies indicating otherwise. The university also prohibits the use of e-mail to "annoy" another person.

The use of required "learning outcomes" to push a politicized agenda on students seems to be an ominous new trend in higher education. Particularly when combined with the ongoing trend of restricting student speech through the use of speech codes, student rights on campus are in greater danger than ever. As with Delaware, we will be watching UW-Oshkosh closely to ensure that these new learning outcomes are not used as a tool for student indoctrination.