Today the UO Senate unanimously passed an academic freedom policy that, if signed by UO President Gottfredson, will be among the strongest in the country.
The new policy gives free-speech protection to all UO faculty, students, and non-faculty employees for the purposes of teaching, research, shared governance, and public service, and states that “The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal.”
The Senate’s “Ad Hoc Academic Freedom Committee” was chaired by United Academics union President Michael Dreiling (Sociology). Securing a robust academic freedom policy has been a top priority for UAUO, and we applaud the Senate for what it accomplished today, after many months of work.
The motion is posted on the Senate website here, currently in draft form. Under UO’s Constitution the president has 60 days to either sign the policy, or trigger a veto or revision process that could lead to an assembly of the entire faculty.
The draft policy would have allowed the UO administration to weaken the shared governance free speech protections for students and non-faculty employees. But after a discussion of the importance of the role of these groups in the university’s shared governance, the Senate voted unanimously to change the language so as to be clear that all “members of the university community”, i.e. students and non-faculty employees such as staff and administrators, would also “have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice”.
The final language approved by the Senate is as follows:
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.