UW Faculty Pass Academic Freedom Policy
Faculty at the University of Wisconsin – Madison successfully passed a new University policy this week firmly establishing their rights to academic freedom and shared governance.
The resolution amends the university policy regarding faculty rights to include the following two paragraphs:
“Academic freedom is the freedom to discuss and present scholarly opinions and conclusions regarding all relevant matters in the classroom, to explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, and to reach conclusions according to one's scholarly discernment. It also includes the right to speak or write—as a private citizen or within the context of one's activities as an employee of the university—without institutional discipline or restraint on matters of public concern as well as on matters related to professional duties, the functioning of the university, and university positions and policies.
Academic responsibility implies the faithful performance of professional duties and obligations, the recognition of the demands of the scholarly enterprise, and the candor to make it clear that when one is speaking on matters of public interest or concern, one is speaking on behalf of oneself, not the institution.”
The change comes in response to a spate of faculty dismissals for controversial speech in the classroom or speaking out on the governance of their institution. Some federal courts have upheld the dismissals citing the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court Case Garcetti v Ceballos that allows for public employees to be disciplined for speech related to their professional duties. As we have noted before we believe that it is a mistake to apply the logic of the ruling to the academic community where the principle of academic freedom has long been respected and where the institution relies on input from faculty and students in governance decisions.
While we still hope the courts will correct their position, campus policies like this are one of the best ways to mitigate its effects immediately. Faculty at the University of Minnesota passed a similar policy last year and the Center’s partner, the AAUP, has been encouraging their members to do the same. It is good to see more campuses do what they can to head off this threat.