Board of Trustees

Download a printable PDF of Section III

Approved: November 16, 2001
Section III: Academic Affairs
Subsection: A. Academic Freedom and Responsibility

In adopting the following statements concerning academic freedom and responsibility, the Board of Trustees affirms that academic freedom should not be abridged or abused and joins the numerous other organizations which have endorsed such principles.

  1. Academic Freedom. Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual faculty member or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition. Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights.
    1. The faculty member is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of his/her other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
    2. The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject, but he/she should be careful not to introduce into his/her teaching controversial matter which has no relation to his/her subject.
    3. The faculty member is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an educational institution. When he/she speaks or writes as a citizen, he/she should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but his/her special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a person of learning and an educational representative, he/she should remember that the public may judge his/her profession and his/her institution by his/her utterances. Hence he/she should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that he/she is not an institutional spokesperson.
  2. Academic Responsibility. Membership in the academic community imposes on students, faculty members, and administrators an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and expression on and off campus. The expression of dissent and the attempt to produce change, therefore, may not be carried out in ways which injure individuals or damage institutional facilities or disrupt the classes of one's teachers or colleagues. Speakers on campus must not only be protected from violence, but given an opportunity to be heard. Those who seek to call attention to grievances must not do so in ways that significantly impede the functions of the institution. Students are entitled to an atmosphere conducive to learning and to even-handed treatment in all aspects of the teacher-student relationship. Faculty members may not refuse to enroll or teach students on the grounds of their beliefs or the possible uses to which they may put the knowledge to be gained in a course. Students should not be forced by the authority inherent in the instructional role to make particular personal choices as to political action or their own part of society. Evaluation of students and the award of credit must be based on academic performance professionally judged and not on matters irrelevant to that performance, whether personality, race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, degree of political activism, or personal beliefs.

    It is the faculty members' mastery of their subjects and their own scholarship which entitle them to their classrooms and to freedom in the presentation of their subjects. Thus, it is improper for faculty members persistently to intrude material which has no relation to their subjects, or to fail to present the subject matter of their course as announced to their students and as approved by the faculty in their collective responsibility for the curriculum.

    Because academic freedom has traditionally included the faculty member's full freedom as a citizen, most faculty members face no insoluble conflicts between the claims of politics, social action, and conscience, on the one hand, and the claims and expectations of their students, colleagues, and institutions, on the other. If such conflicts become acute, and the faculty members' attention to their obligations as citizens and moral agents precludes the fulfillment of substantial academic obligations, they cannot escape the responsibility of that choice, but should either request leaves of absence or resign their academic positions.