Patriot Act may dodge sunset (part two)

At Portland State, a major concern about the Patriot Act is that students and other members of academia will be discouraged from researching controversial topics due to fear that they may fall under government scrutiny.

Under the act, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have increased access to student records, as well as library records.

"The cornerstone of democracy is access to information that as a citizen you need and have a right to. Without educated citizens, a democracy can’t function as it’s supposed to function," said Helen Spalding, who was recently appointed library director at PSU.

Librarians across the country have been some of the strongest opponents to the Patriot Act, at times shredding documents or making other attempts to thwart the government’s access to library records, though nothing that extreme has been known to happen at PSU.

"I want to emphasize, of course we want to abide by the law… but freedom of information is balanced with national security," Spalding said.

Still, a common attitude among academics is one of perseverance, despite the potential of falling under federal investigators’ watchful eyes.

"It hasn’t changed what I do, including social justice issues," said William Bohnaker, a professor in the English department who also teaches classes dealing with progressive political issues.