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A bill which would grant the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the right to revoke the charter of any educational institution within the state whose "curriculum, faculty, and facilities," do not meet with the approval of the Department of Education, will be called for committee hearings in the House of Representatives Monday.
Rep. Gerald F. Doherty '50, the sponsor of the bill, admitted yesterday that the proposed act "may smack of unconstitutionality," but insisted that some legislation was necessary in order to prevent exploitation of students by so-called "diploma factories."
"I would be the first to admit that this could be a dangerous thing," Doherty said, acknowledging the possibility of an infringement on academic freedom.
The bill--House No. 2425--requires specifically that "the Department of Education shall, every five years, review the curriculum, faculty, and facilities of each institution of higher learning chartered to grant degrees, and said department shall recommend to the Department of Corporations and Taxation the withdrawal of the charter of any such institution whenever in its opinion said institution is not being conducted in the manner contemplated by the granting of said charter."
Doherty, who is chairman of the House Committee on Education, noted that Harvard is theoretically included under the bill but said that there is very little possibility that it would ever be directly affected.
In addition to the charter bill Doherty is co-sponsoring with Rep. William M. Bulger of Boston a bill providing that the Massachusetts Board of Collegiate Authority may suspend or revoke the right of any educational institution to grant degrees if the institutions do not meet standards to be set by the board. Though the bill would apply to both public and private schools, Harvard is expressly excluded.
The bill authorizes the board, which is appointed by the governor, to establish regulations concerning "qualifications of teachers, equipment, courses of instruction, facilities and physical plant requirements."
Rep. Bulger said that under the provisions of the bill the board could conceivably pass regulations requiring the teaching of communism in colleges and universities but noted that "this was certainly not the original intent of the bill."
Both Doherty and Bulger expressed grave concern over the existence of schools in Massachusetts which have been granted charters by the state but which have "met no standards of educational decency, and offer nothing more than a scrap of paper which they call 'degree.'" Doherty singled out Boston's Avon University as a "fraud and deceit," and maintained that the real intention of the bills was to alleviate the conditions caused by such institutions.
The House Committee on Education will conduct hearings on both bills Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. in Room 480 at the State House.
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