An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that accreditation ought to be denied to Christian colleges that require professors to sign statements of faith or otherwise “draw lines around what is regarded as acceptable teaching and research.” This seems like an obvious next step in the current march of secular intolerance, so I expect we’ll be hearing more arguments like this in the future:
Why does accreditation matter? Aside from the traditional goal of conferring legitimacy on colleges and their programs, accreditation has taken on a far more consequential role: Students attending institutions that are not accredited are ineligible for federal financial aid, money that is indispensable to the budgets of most American colleges….
By awarding accreditation to religious colleges, the process confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education.
Skeptical and unfettered inquiry is the hallmark of American teaching and research. However, such inquiry cannot flourish—in many cases, cannot even survive—inside institutions that erect religious tests for truth. The contradiction is obvious….
Students giving tours at Wheaton College in Illinois are said to describe it as the Harvard of evangelical education. But unlike Harvard, Wheaton is one of the colleges that oblige their faculty members to complete faith statements. In other words, at Wheaton the primacy of reason has been abandoned by the deliberate and repeated choices of both its administration and its faculty.
Wheaton is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools…. I asked [Wheaton] to justify the manifest disconnect between the bedrock principle of academic freedom and the governing regulations that corrupt academic freedom at Wheaton…. The process administrator’s explanation, in full: "Federal regulations and commission policies require that the commission respect a wide range of institutional missions and belief systems in its accrediting processes."
This, in my view, can only be described as a scandal. Providing accreditation to colleges like Wheaton makes a mockery of whatever academic and intellectual standards the process of accreditation is supposed to uphold. If accrediting agencies are playing by the rules in this continuing fiasco, then the rules have to be changed—or interpreted more aggressively, so that "respect" for "belief systems" does not entail approving the subversion of our core academic mission by this or that species of dogma.
Right. Because secular colleges have no worldview dogmas whatsoever. And they never draw lines around what is regarded as acceptable teaching and research.