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PAc-14 Academic Freedom and Responsibility

Policy:  PAc-14
Subject:  Academic Freedom and Responsibility
Approval Date:  11/04/85
Revision Date:


To outline the conditions of academic freedom and responsibility for faculty and staff members who teach or perform research.


Academic freedom is the right of members of the academic community freely to study, discuss, investigate, teach, conduct research, publish or administer as appropriate to their respective roles and responsibilities.  It is the responsibility of administrators to protect and assure these rights within the governing framework of the institution.  Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful to present the various scholarly views related to their subject and to avoid introducing into their teaching controversial or other matter which has no relation to their subject. Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results therefrom, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties.


However, academic freedom should be distinguished clearly from constitutional freedom, which all citizens enjoy equally under the law.  Academic freedom is an additional assurance to those who teach and pursue knowledge, and, thus, properly should be restricted to rights of expression pertaining to teaching and research within their areas of recognized professional competencies.  Beyond this, expressions by members of the academic community should carry no more weight or protection than that accorded any other citizen under the guarantee of constitutional rights: that is, outside of one's professional field, one must accept the same responsibility which all other individuals bear for their acts and utterances.  In these cases, there is and should be no guaranteed immunity from possible criticism under the guise of academic freedom; however,when members of the academic community speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but as persons of learning they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances so they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others and should indicate that they are not institutional spokespersons.

The concept of academic freedom must be accompanied by an equally demanding concept of academic responsibility.  The concern of the institution and its members for academic freedom safeguards must extend equally to requiring responsible service, consistent with the objectives of the institution.


Institutions of higher education are committed to open and rational discussion as a principal means for the clarification of issues and the solution of problems.  In the solution of certain difficult problems, all members of the academic community must take note of their responsibility to society, to the institution and to each other and must recognize that at times the interests of each may vary and will have to be reconciled.  The use of physical force, psychological harassment, or other disruptive acts, which interfere with institutional activities, freedom of movement on the campus, or freedom of all members of the academic community to pursue their rightful goals, is the antithesis of academic freedom and responsibility.  So, also, are acts which, in effect, deny freedom to speak, to be heard, to study, to teach, to administer and to pursue research.  It is incumbent upon members of the academic community to be acquainted with their individual responsibilities, as delineated by appropriate institutional statements.


The universal responsibility of the teaching faculty member is effective teaching.  A proper academic climate can be maintained only when members of the academic community meet their fundamental responsibilities regularly, such as preparing for and meeting their assignments, conferring with and advising students, evaluating fairly and reporting promptly student achievement and participation in group deliberations which contribute to the growth and development of students and the institution.  All members of the academic community also have the responsibility to accept those reasonable duties assigned to them within their fields of competency, whether curricular, cocurricular or extracurricular.  Additionally, the concept of "institutional loyalty" still has a proper place within the academic community and imposes the further responsibility on all members of the academic community to attempt, honestly and in good faith, to preserve and defend the institution and the goals it espouses, without restricting the right to advocate change.


Administrators must protect, defend and promote academic freedom, must assure that members of the academic community fulfill their responsibilities and, in addition, must recognize that they have special responsibilities for which they are held accountable--namely, the marshaling of human, physical and financial resources in order to realize institutional goals. (Source: American Association of State Colleges and Universities, adopted November 9, 1971).

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