Academic Freedom

Statement on Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is the unrestricted search for knowledge and truth and its free exposition in the scholarly community. This is a special freedom necessary to the mission of the university. Academic freedom is vital to ensure the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of the professors, the students, the institution, the academic community, and the public. Faculty and students must be able, under the principles of academic freedom, to seek knowledge and truth and to express and defend their viewpoints in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Professional responsibility is the logical correlative of academic freedom. As members of a profession possessing the right of self-governance, the faculty has the duty to define the rights and responsibilities necessary for pursuing knowledge and truth. All members of the academic community have the responsibility to conduct themselves in ways that will promote the achievement of the purposes for which academic freedom exists.

The exercise of academic freedom must be judged by standards established by the faculty in accordance with the expertise and authority of the faculty.

Approved by the Senate 5/26/05

ACADEMIC FREEDOM COMPLAINT PROCEDURES

INTRODUCTION

Academic Freedom springs from the centrality of free inquiry in higher education and is thus essential in colleges and universities, but it is also contentious because of its imprecise boundaries.  The procedures that follow reflect an awareness of academic freedom’s essential role in higher education and of the need to remain vigilant in its defense.  They also recognize that academic freedom’s imprecise boundaries may lead to unintentional violations of greater or lesser severity and greater or lesser degrees of unintentionally; therefore a range of remedies is called for.  The following procedures are intended to apply to situations which cannot be corrected by more informal means.

BACKGROUND

The Statement of Professional Responsibility (SPR) and the Faculty Bill of Rights (FBR) enumerate rights and responsibilities that are essential for the protection of academic freedom.  Those documents empower the Academic Freedom Subcommittee (AFS) of the Faculty Standards and Affairs Committee (FSAC), formerly known as the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) and renamed in 1998, to review “any question of interpretation either of rights or responsibilities.”

PROCEDURES

Written complaints of violations of any provision of SPR or FBR shall be directed to the Chair of the Academic Freedom Subcommittee.  Any person responsible for teaching or support of instruction whose rights may have been violated or any member of the campus community who witnesses a possible violation may file a complaint.

The complaint shall indicate the specific provision of the SPR or FBR that may have been abrogated; it should include a description of the alleged violation, the available evidence and, if desired, a proposed remedy.  Individuals who may have been responsible for the alleged violation should be identified.  The address, or other contact information, for the person making the complaint should be listed.

The Chair of AFS shall make copies of the written complaint available to all alleged violating parties.  After the complaint is received it should be considered at the next regularly scheduled meeting of AFS unless there is a compelling need for more timely action.  The complaint shall proceed to a hearing conducted by a three-person committee, selected by lot from a list of the tenured members of the faculty, unless four members of AFS conclude that it is without merit.

In the event that the complaint is not considered to be of sufficient merit to warrant a hearing, the Chair of AFS shall inform the complainant and alleged violators of the committee’s decision in a timely fashion.  The complainant shall have the right to appeal this decision to the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate and shall be informed of this right by the Chair of AFS.

If, after receiving an appeal, a majority of the voting members of the Executive committee decide that the complaint should be heard, they shall, through their Chair, appoint a three-person committee, drawn at random from the tenured members of the faculty, to conduct a hearing.

In the event that a hearing is conducted, either through the auspices of the AFS or the Executive Committee, it is incumbent upon those who are alleged to have violated SPR or FBR to participate in the hearing.

The committee will attempt to bring about a settlement of the matter that is satisfactory to all parties concerned.  If, in the opinion of the committee, no settlement is possible, the committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the complainant, the alleged violator(s), the chair of the appointing committee (AFS or Executive Committee), and the Provost of the University.

Thirty days after these reports have been made, the chair of the appointing committee will contact the Provost in order to inquire about any action that may have been taken.  The chair of the appointing committee shall report the results of this inquiry on the floor of the Senate.

Each year, at the close of the spring semester, the Chair of AFS will report, without including the names of individuals, all complaints that have been settled, left unsettled, or remain pending, to the FSAC representative to AFS; a summary report of all settlements will be made to any newly elected chair of AFS.  Files will be kept for 8 years.

Written by the Academic Freedom Subcommittee and approved by unanimous vote of FSAC at its May 13, 1999, meeting
Approved by the Senate February 10, 2000