University of Oregon's Academic Freedom Policy Approved

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson has signed a new policy protecting academic freedom, which is being called one of the best policies in the country for defending academic freedom. The passage of this policy also refutes the false notion that academic unions undermine policy-making by a faculty senate. In this case, the AAUP/AFT union president chaired the committee that created the new policy, which was unanimously passed by the Faculty Senate. Below is the policy, followed by Gottfredson’s detailed memo endorsing it.

Policy on Academic Freedom

The University of Oregon encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community. The University of Oregon protects free speech through Policy No. 01.00.16. This policy on Academic Freedom builds on these existing commitments by recognizing the special contexts of scholarship, teaching, governance, and public service.

a. SCHOLARSHIP. The University’s research mission requires that members of the UO community have autonomous freedom to conduct research and produce creative work, and to publish and disseminate that work, limited only by the standards and methods of accountability established by their profession and their individual disciplines.

b. TEACHING. The University’s responsibility to help students to think critically and independently requires that members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint. Matters brought up in class should be related to the subject of courses or otherwise be educationally relevant, as determined primarily by the faculty member in charge of the class.

c. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.

d. PUBLIC SERVICE. Public service requires that members of the university community have freedom to participate in public debate, both within and beyond their areas of expertise, and to address both the university community and the larger society with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, cultural, or other interest. In their exercise of this freedom, university community members have the right to identify their association or title, but should not claim to be acting or speaking on behalf of the University unless authorized to do so.

These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences. Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.
DATE: May 28, 2014
TO: Senate President Robert Kyr
FROM: President Michael Gottfredson
SUBJECT: Senate Policy Proposal US13/14-29, Academic Freedom Policy

The University of Oregon has a long and exceptional history of strong protection of academic freedom. I am proud of this tradition, and consider it central to our mission. And I take seriously our responsibility to guard it fiercely, as it underlies everything we do and stand for as a university.

We currently have in place a set of policies, rules, and agreements that provide robust protection for academic freedom and freedom of speech; they are among the strongest in the country, and have worked very well to protect academic freedom at the University of Oregon.

These freedoms are currently protected by policies that include:

• OAR 580-022-0005, the Oregon Administrative Rule that covers Academic Freedom for all of Oregon’s universities, which states in part: “All teachers in Department Institutions are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing subjects…[T]he Board neither attempts to control, sway nor limit the personal opinion or expression of that opinion by any person on the faculty or otherwise on the Department’s payroll.”

• Article 5 of the UO United Academics Collective Bargaining Agreement, which covers all represented UO faculty:

o From the preamble to Article 5: Academic freedom and freedom of speech are necessary conditions to teaching and research. This policy establishes a robust view of academic freedom and freedom of speech in order to ensure that faculty have the freedom to conduct research, to teach, to engage in internal criticism, and to participate in public debate.

o Article 5, Section 1: The University protects academic freedom and bargaining unit faculty shall enjoy its benefits and responsibilities:
(a) The freedom to conduct research and creative work and to publish or otherwise disseminate the results of that work. …
(b) The freedom to teach, both in and outside of the classroom. …

• UO Policy 01.00.16, the UO’s policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech, which states in part: “The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community.”

• UO Policy 01.00.10, the UO’s Community Standards Affirmation

Together, these statements provide a comprehensive set of protections for both academic freedom, which is so critical to the work of all who teach and conduct research on our campus, and freedom of speech, the principle closest to the heart of our democratic ideals. They are well aligned with the principles and values so well articulated by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in its 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

As someone who has devoted my entire career to the advancement of quality public higher education and research, these freedoms are dear to me. If our policies relevant to them are to be modified, it must be done carefully and deliberately. Any modifications must strengthen our existing protections.

The University Senate has sought to develop a new academic freedom policy since well before I became president. A year ago, I began working with the Senate to draft a policy that would further strengthen protections of free speech and academic freedom at the UO. My view has been, and remains, that our policies could be strengthened by adding language explicitly recognizing that traditional academic freedom principles extend to speech concerning university policies, as recently clarified in policies adopted by other AAU universities. This clarification is timely and important, and helps strengthen our existing policies, which is our goal. Our new policy ensures that academic freedom at the UO will not be narrowed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).

I have studied our existing policies, and have reviewed the proposed modifications within this context. The Senate proposal provides additional clarification and protection, and I am pleased to sign it.

2 thoughts on “University of Oregon's Academic Freedom Policy Approved

  1. Pingback: U. Oregon, w/faculty union leadership, adopts model academic freedom policy | UIS United Faculty

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