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Encyclopedia > Academic freedom

Academic freedom is the freedom of teachers, students, and academic institutions to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead, without undue or unreasonable interference.[1] At the minimum, academic freedom involves the freedom to engage in the entire range of activities involved in the production of knowledge, including choosing a research focus, determining what to teach in the classroom, presenting research findings to colleagues, and publishing research findings. [2] Still, academic freedom has limits. In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure"[3], teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for adequate cause, such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself. Image File history File links Gnome-globe. ... Academia is a collective term for the scientific and cultural community engaged in higher education and research, taken as a whole. ... Look up tenure in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


The rationale for academic freedom

Proponents of academic freedom believe that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy. Academic communities are repeatedly targeted for repression due to their ability to shape and control the flow of information. When scholars attempt to teach or communicate ideas or facts that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities, they may find themselves targeted for public vilification, job loss, imprisonment, or even death. In North Africa, a professor of public health discovered that his country's infant mortality rate was higher than government figures indicated. He lost his job and was imprisoned.[4]

The fate of biology in the Soviet Union shows why society has an interest in protecting academic freedom. A Soviet biologist named Trofim Lysenko rejected Western scientific advances and proposed a new, unscientific approach to biology (called Lysenkoism) that was based on the principles of dialectical materialism. Because of their propaganda value, Lysenko's ideas proved appealing to the Soviet leadership, and he became the director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences; subsequently, Lysenko directed a purge of scientists who professed "harmful ideas," resulting in the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists. Lysenko's unscientific ideas were implemented on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. Famines that resulted partly from Lysenko's influence are believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.[5] This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (Russian: Трофи́м Дени́сович Лысе́нко) (September 29, 1898–November 20, 1976) was a Soviet politician who made pretense of being a biologist. ... Please wikify (format) this article as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style. ... According to many followers of the theories of Karl Marx (or Marxists), dialectical materialism is the philosophical basis of Marxism. ...

Academic freedom for students

The ideas of academic freedom as a right of the student is German in origin. In this model (known in German as Lernfreiheit), the student is free to pursue their own course of study, taking whatever courses they like at whatever university they choose. This ideal was carried to the United States in the 19th century by scholars who had studied at German universities. It was most prominently employed in the United States by Charles William Eliot at Harvard University between 1872 and 1897, when the only required course was freshman rhetoric. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Prof. ... Harvard University (incorporated as The President and Fellows of Harvard College) is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and a member of the Ivy League. ... Year 1872 (MDCCCLXXII) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar (or a leap year starting on Saturday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... 1897 (MDCCCXCVII) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Rhetoric (from Greek , rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of spoken language; however, this definition of rhetoric has expanded greatly since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in universities. ...

In the U.S., students' academic freedom is legitimately regulated by the faculty's freedom to determine which viewpoints are supported by scholarly standards, peer review, and established norms in their disciplines. According to a U.S. appellate court decision,[6] "a professor's rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression are paramount in the academic setting." For this reason, U.S. students do not have the right to insist that professors provide "equal time" for competing viewpoints.[7] A student may be required to write a paper from a particular viewpoint, even if the student disagrees with that viewpoint, as long as the requirement serves a legitimate pedagogical purpose.[8] However, the faculty's rights to determine legitimate subject matter are not absolute to the point of compromising a student's right to learn in a hostility-free environment." Professorial speech is protected only to the extent that it is "germane to the subject matter."[9]

Academic freedom for professors

The concept of academic freedom as a right of faculty members (Lehrfreiheit in German) is an established part of German, English, French and American cultures. All four acknowledge the right of a faculty member to pursue research and publish their findings without restraint, but they differ in regard to the professor's freedom in a classroom situation. Motto (French) God and my right Anthem No official anthem - the United Kingdom anthem God Save the Queen is commonly used England() – on the European continent() – in the United Kingdom() Capital (and largest city) London (de facto) Official languages English (de facto) Unified  -  by Athelstan 927 AD  Area  -  Total 130...

In the German tradition, professors are free to try to convert their students to their personal viewpoint and philosophical system.[10] Nevertheless, professors are discouraged or prohibited from stating their views, particularly political views, outside the class; in regard to his teaching, there should be no duties required of the professor, no prescribed syllabus, and no restriction to a particular subject.

In the United States, academic freedom is generally taken as the notion of academic freedom defined by the "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure," jointly authored by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges (AAC). These principles state that "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject." [11] The AAUP works with colleges and universities, including private and religious institutions, to implement these principles as the basis for contractual relationships with faculty. Colleges and universities found to violate these principles are placed on a list of censured institutions. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is an organization of professors and other academics in the United States. ...

A professor at a public French university, or a researcher in a public research laboratory, is expected, as are all civil servants, to behave in a neutral manner and to not favor any particular political or religious point of view during the course of his duties. However, the academic freedom of university professors is a fundamental principle recognized by the laws of the Republic, as defined by the Constitutional Council; furthermore, statute law declares about higher education that teachers-researchers [university professors and assistant professors], researchers and teachers are fully independent and enjoy full freedom of speech in the course of their research and teaching activities, provided they respect, following university traditions and the dispositions of this code, principles of tolerance and objectivity (Education Code, L952-2). The nomination and promotion of professors is largely done through a process of peer review rather than through normal administrative procedures. The French Civil Service (French: fonction publique française) is the set of civil servants (fonctionnaires) working for the French government. ... The meaning of the word professor (Latin: one who claims publicly to be an expert) varies. ... A republican guard giving directions to visitors at the front entrance of the Constitutional Council The Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958. ... The University of Cambridge is an institute of higher learning. ... Freedom of speech is the concept of being able to speak freely without censorship. ... Research is a human activity based on intellectual investigation and aimed at discovering, interpreting, and revising human knowledge on different aspects of the world. ... In education, teachers are those who teach students or pupils, often a course of study or a practical skill. ... Peer review (known as refereeing in some academic fields) is a scholarly process used in the publication of manuscripts and in the awarding of funding for research. ...

Academic freedom for colleges and universities

A prominent feature of the English university concept is the freedom to appoint faculty, set standards and admit students. This ideal may be better described as institutional autonomy and is distinct from whatever freedom is granted to students and faculty by the institution. (Kemp, p. 7)

The Supreme Court of the United States said that academic freedom means a university can "determine for itself on academic grounds: Federal courts Supreme Court Chief Justice Associate Justices Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Counties, Cities, and Towns Other countries Politics Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial body in the...

  1. who may teach,
  2. what may be taught,
  3. how it should be taught, and
  4. who may be admitted to study." (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 312. 1978.)

Holding The Court held that while affirmative action systems are constitutional, a quota system based on race is unconstitutional. ...

Academic freedom and the First Amendment

In the U.S., the freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." By extension, the First Amendment applies to all governmental institutions, including public universities. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that academic freedom is a First Amendment right.[12] However, the First Amendment does not apply to private institutions, including religious institutions. In addition, academic freedom involves more than speech rights; for example, it includes the right to determine what is taught in the classroom. Therefore, academic freedom is, at best, only partially protected by free speech rights. In sum, academic freedom and free speech rights are not coextensive and the relationship between the two remains unclear. In practice, academic freedom is protected by institutional rules and regulations, letters of appointment, faculty handbooks, collective bargaining agreements, and academic custom.[13] Freedom of speech is the concept of being able to speak freely without censorship. ... The first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. ... Federal courts Supreme Court Chief Justice Associate Justices Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Counties, Cities, and Towns Other countries Politics Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial body in the...


Public utterances and academic freedom

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the resulting patriotic feelings that swept the U.S., public statements made by faculty came under media scrutiny. For example, in January 2005, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill published an essay in which he asserted that the attack on the United States was justified because of American foreign policy. On some conservative news and talk programs, he was criticized for describing the World Trade Center victims as "little Eichmanns," a reference to Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem. Many called for Churchill to be fired for overstepping the bounds of acceptable discourse. Others defended him on the principle of academic freedom, even if they disagreed with his message. A sequential look at United Flight 175 crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center The September 11, 2001 attacks (often referred to as 9/11—pronounced nine eleven or nine one one) consisted of a series of coordinated terrorist[1] suicide attacks upon the United States, predominantly... The University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder, UCB officially[2]; Colorado and CU colloquially) is the flagship university of the University of Colorado System in Boulder, Colorado. ... Ward Churchill speaking at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, May 2005 Ward LeRoy Churchill (born October 2, 1947) is an American writer, Vietnam war veteran and political activist. ... “WTC” redirects here. ... Little Eichmanns is a phrase coined by anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan. ... Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906 – December 4, 1975) was a German Jewish political theorist. ... The cover of Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil is a book written by political theorist Hannah Arendt, originally published in 1963. ...

The Bassett Affair at Duke University is an important event in the history of academic freedom. John Spencer Bassett in 1891 John Spencer Bassett (1867—1928) was a professor at Duke University (then Trinity College) best known today for initiating the Bassett Affair in 1903. ... Duke University is a private coeducational research university located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. ...

The "Academic bill of rights"

The principles of academic freedom state that teachers should be free to teach and students should be free to learn. What happens when these freedoms are in supposed conflict?

Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) was founded in 2001 by David Horowitz to protect students from a perceived liberal bias in U.S. colleges and universities. The organization collected many statements from college students complaining that some of their professors were disregarding their responsibility to keep unrelated controversial material out of their classes and were instead teaching their subjects from an ideological point of view.[14] In response, the organization drafted model legislation, called the Academic Bill of Rights, which has been introduced in several state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives. The Academic Bill of Rights is intended to offset the liberal bias in the nation's colleges and universities, evening the playing field for the expression of the full spectrum of ideas. According to Students for Academic Freedom, academic freedom is "the freedom to teach and to learn." They contend in "The Academic Bill of Rights" that academic freedom promotes "intellectual diversity" and helps achieve a university's primary goals, i.e., "the pursuit of truth, the discovery of new knowledge through scholarship and research, the study and reasoned criticism of intellectual and cultural traditions, the teaching and general development of students to help them become creative individuals and productive citizens of a pluralistic democracy, and the transmission of knowledge and learning to a society at large." Accordingly, the Academic Bill of Rights calls for state and judicial regulation of colleges. Such regulation would ensure that professors: David Horowitz is an American conservative writer and activist. ...

  • make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own;
  • make hiring, firing, promotion, and tenure decisions on grounds of competence and knowledge alone; and
  • grade their students based on their performance and knowledge alone, and not on their political or religious beliefs.

Some opponents claim that such a bill would actually restrict academic freedom, leaving education to ideologically-motivated legislators and judges, rather than ideologically-driven professors. According to the American Association of University Professors, the Academic Bill of Rights is, despite its title, an attack on the very concept of academic freedom itself: "A fundamental premise of academic freedom is that decisions concerning the quality of scholarship and teaching are to be made by reference to the standards of the academic profession, as interpreted and applied by the community of scholars who are qualified by expertise and training to establish such standards." The Academic Bill of Rights directs universities to implement the principle of neutrality by requiring the appointment of faculty "with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives," an approach they claim is problematic because " It invites diversity to be measured by political standards that diverge from the academic criteria of the scholarly profession." For example,"no department of political theory ought to be obligated to establish 'a plurality of methodologies and perspectives' by appointing a professor of Nazi political philosophy."[citation needed] Concurring, the president of Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia fears that the Academic Bill of Rights "would inhibit his college's efforts to provide a faith-based education and would put pressure on the college to hire professors... who espouse views contrary to those of the institution."[15] However, the language of the bill itself makes clear that the objective is simply neutrality in hiring. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is an organization of professors and other academics in the United States. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


  1. ^ Columbia University (2005). "First Global Colloquium of University Presidents, "Statement on Academic Freedom".
  2. ^ Ralph E. Fuchs (1969). "Academic Freedom—Its Basic Philosophy, Function and History," in Louis Joughin (ed)., Academic Freedom and Tenure: A Handbook of the American Association of University Professors.
  3. ^ 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
  4. ^ Robert Quinn (2004). "Defending 'Dangerous Minds.'"
  5. ^ Jasper Becker (1996). Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine. New York: Free Press.
  6. ^ Bonnell v. Lorenzo, 241 F.3d 800 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 951 (2001).
  7. ^ Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578, 586 n. 6 (1987).
  8. ^ Brown v. Li, 308 F.3d 939, 953 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 538 U.S. 908 (2003).
  9. ^ Hardy v. Jefferson Community College, 260 F.3d 671 (6th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 535 U.S. 970 (2002).
  10. ^ Walter P. Metzger (1955). Academic Freedom in the Age of the University. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.
  11. ^ 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, AAUP [1], accessed March 23, 2007
  12. ^ Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (1957); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 (1967); Regents of Univ. of Michigan v. Ewing, 474 U.S. 214 (1985).
  13. ^ Donna Euben, Political And Religious Belief Discrimination On Campus: Faculty and Student Academic Freedom and The First Amendment.
  14. ^ Academic Freedom Abuse Center
  15. ^ Alyson Klein (2004). "Worried on the Left and Right." Chronicle of Higher Education (July 9, 2004).

Further reading

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  • "Academic freedom". The Dictionary of the History of Ideas. 
  • Fish, Stanley. "Conspiracy Theories 101", New York Times Op-Ed, 2006-07-23. 
  • Cross, Tom. "Academic Freedom and the Hacker Ethic", Communications of the ACM, June 2006.

Web Resources and Support Organizations

  Results from FactBites:
Academic freedom - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1608 words)
Academic freedom is the freedom of teachers, students, and academic institutions to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead, without undue or unreasonable interference.
Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for adequate cause, such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself.
Proponents of academic freedom believe that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy.
SAF: The Academic Bill of Rights (772 words)
Therefore, academic freedom is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech.
Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students in the pursuit of knowledge and the expression of ideas from interference by legislators or authorities within the institution itself.
Academic institutions and professional societies formed to advance knowledge within an area of research, maintain the integrity of the research process, and organize the professional lives of related researchers serve as indispensable venues within which scholars circulate research findings and debate their interpretation.
  More results at FactBites »



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