April 6, 2020

Academic Freedom

Colleagues,

Earlier today we received memos from Mr. Sorrell, counsel for the College, and Dr. Pollard on the issue of political activity taken by college employees. The AAUP is very concerned about some of the points raised and their implications to our academic freedom. We have been discussing this with our legal counsel, and are planning a meeting with College representatives to discuss our concerns in more detail. We will report back to you after that discussion takes place.
To be sure, some aspects of the policy contain common sense rules that we all can support. For example, I doubt any of us believes that we should be coercing our colleagues into supporting our choice of candidates or issues. It is not as clear, however, how some of the other sections should be interpreted in regards to faculty and our educational mission.

Below is a copy of Policy 58003 from the P&P, the Board’s affirmation of the importance of academic freedom. It is well worth every faculty member’s time to become familiar with it.
Thank you,
Rick Penn

 

Policy 58003

A sound educational environment requires a secure framework of academic freedom. Academic freedom establishes the right and implies the obligation of a scholar to examine all data and to question every assumption. Academic freedom has to do with methods of inquiry rather than with the personal views of the inquirer. It debars one from preconceived conclusions. It obligates a teacher to present all information fairly, because it asserts the student’s right to know all aspects of the facts. Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of either an individual or an institution but it does require candidly declared efforts to advance a particular point of view, as well as complete access to the facts underlying an argument and plain distinction of personal or institutional opinion from objective inquiry. To restrict the availability or limit the presentation of data or opinions, even though they may be considered erroneous, is to impinge upon academic freedom. Regardless of whether faculty members hold probationary initial appointments or are on extended contract or permanent tenure, the same principles of academic freedom must apply to all.
Board Approval: June 26, 1978.

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