APSCUF’s September 2017 legislative assembly approved the following statement on information literacy:
Whereas, recent events have thrown a spotlight on the importance of informational literacy and the ease with which false information can be embraced and propagated. From media reports that describe a basketball star who believes that the world is flat, to followup stories that argue over the difference between what he said and what he meant, everything appears to be “debatable.”
Whereas, everything should be debatable but, at some point, consensus becomes necessary and, when it is, it should be evidence-based. Unfortunately, the evidence that informs one’s consensus might be limited by the environments one encounters; star athletes can spend lucrative careers in the highly restricted world of arenas and press conferences, and — as long as they never have to actually program the orbiting satellite that guides their plane from city to city — they can afford to hold deeply mistaken beliefs. We must challenge ourselves, our students, and the public to explore and understand the information available to us.
Whereas, the sciences provided a foundation for the most impressive discoveries of the 20th century, and the accomplishments have been so great that they are easily taken for granted. The fruits of evidence-based decisions have become victims of their own success, and time and distance have separated most of us from the consequences of denying evidence, but that could change. At a time when we need to hold rallies in support of reality, we can only hope that the bulk of public opinion will flow back in favor of informed decisions.
Whereas, it is difficult to imagine that discoveries are dismissed as opinion in a state where biochemistry has diminished the impact of viral epidemics, chemistry and engineering have delivered potable water, and physics delivered reliable electricity to so many households. Comfort compromises concern, until a discovery, like Pennsylvania’s recent Marcellus Shale boom, reminds us of how a scientific field such as geology, can have an immediate impact on geography, meteorology, economics, sociology, and politics. Navigating the challenges presented within each one of these disciplines demands not only a basic understanding of the respective fields but an understanding of how to process the information and integrate it across fields. Never before have the benefits of a broad-based college curriculum been so apparent, and never before has the access to affordable education been so imperiled.
Whereas, traditionally we, as APSCUF, have represented ourselves as facilitators of personal growth and economic development. Today, the case is more urgent, and we must recognize that this responsibility includes giving our students an education that will be a bulwark against those who would knowingly and intentionally use misinformation to exploit their biases and fears.
Whereas, our mission has not changed but — when reality itself is in question — the stakes have.
Be it therefore resolved that APSCUF encourages its members to incorporate and emphasize information literacy in their courses and interactions with students and urges Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and our universities to emphasize the importance of our universities for the promotion of information literacy.