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Opinion about Limits on Academic Freedom of Faculty

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Since institutions of higher education are centers for learning and imagination, discuss whether you believe there should be any limits on the academic freedom of faculty.

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Discusses whether or not there should be limits on the academic freedom of faculty.

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The concept of academic freedom was defined in 1940 by The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges (now called the Association of American Colleges and Universities). Together, these two associations drafted and approved the Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The statement defines academic freedom for faculty members as:

(1) Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

(2) Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.

(3) College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they 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 they are not speaking for the institution.

The question now is whether academic freedom is a blanket protection for faculty to do what they want in their classrooms. The interpretation of academic freedom since the 1940 Statement has undergone changes not only as a result of the changing times but also because of case law.

According to Professor Gary Olson in his article "The Limits of Academic Freedom" the current interpretation of academic freedom can essentially be summarized on two main points.

"First, it refers to the right of an institution to manage its own curriculum and academic affairs without governmental interference. Colleges may determine, for example, what subject matter gets taught and who can teach it; establish their own admission criteria and graduation requirements; and develop their own academic mission and priorities. That is an important feature of American higher education. It establishes a crucial separation of power that discourages government from dictating that universities adopt particular positions or promote specific causes, ...

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