Academic Freedom

One Historian’s Perspective on Academic Freedom and the AAUP

It’s our brand: academic freedom. Whatever else the AAUP does, the defense of academic freedom is what distinguishes it from every other organization. As the American system of higher education has evolved, so, too, has the Association’s mission, but despite embracing collective bargaining and the provision of other services to the professoriate, the AAUP has not abandoned its central concern with protecting the professional autonomy and intellectual integrity of the nation’s faculties.

Anti-Boycott Bill Threatens Academic Freedom

The AAUP has released a statement opposing New York's proposed Assembly Bill A.8392. While the AAUP opposes all academic boycotts, the statement explains that the restrictions threatened by Assembly Bill A.8392 could impose even greater restrictions on academic freedom.

Controversy in the Classroom

The AAUP clarifies that the group "Students for Academic Freedom," which purports to rely on AAUP principles concerning controversial subject matter, in fact goes well beyond the AAUP's statements and is inimical to academic freedom and the very idea of liberal education. 

AAUP Opposes Anti-Boycott Legislation

The AAUP released a statement opposing legislation (currently pending in New York and Maryland) which would prevent public funds from being used to support organizations which have voted to boycott higher education institutions in other countries.

Proposed Maryland Legislation "Ill-Conceived"

The AAUP and the NCAC criticize academic boycotts, but warn public officials against interference with political expression, open discussion, and debate.

Letter Urges Legislature To Restore Funding

Penalizing state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect: it threatens academic freedom and the quality of education.

More than MOOCs

On August 13, 2013, William C. Powers, the president of the University of Texas at Austin, sent out a campuswide e-mail about educational technology. While campuswide e-mails seldom make news, this one did because few university presidents ever address this particular subject. “Rapidly advancing technology is changing virtually every aspect of our lives,” Powers wrote, “and education is no exception. The changing landscape presents challenges, but it also gives us great opportunities.

Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications

This revised report brings up to date and expands upon the Association’s 2004 report on the same topic, while affirming the earlier report’s basic principles. Academic freedom, free inquiry, and freedom of expression within the academic community may be limited to no greater extent in electronic format than they are in print, save for the most unusual situation where the very nature of the medium itself might warrant unusual restrictions,

Cuccinelli v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia, 283 Va. 420 (2010)

In a 2012 decision the Virginia Supreme Court rejected attempts by then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to compel disclosure of university research records.  Cuccinelli who publicly opposes the theory of global warming, used his position to formally request emails and other documents relating to former faculty member and climatologist Michael Mann from the University of Virginia (UVA) arguing that he had authority to subpoena these records pursuant to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA).  The Supreme Court of Virginia held that state universities, as agencies of the Commonwealth, do not constitute a “person” under the FATA and therefore Cuccinelli had no authority to require release of the records and his appeal was rendered moot. (In another related case, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected a request for these records under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.)

The American Tradition Institute v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia & Michael Mann, 287 Va. 330 (Va. April 17, 2014)

In this case the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a professor’s climate research records were exempt from disclosure as academic research records, as AAUP argued in an amicus brief submitted to the Court.  The Court explained that the exclusion of University research records from disclosure was intended to prevent “harm to university-wide research efforts, damage to faculty recruitment and retention, undermining of faculty expectations of privacy and confidentiality, and impairment of free thought and expression.” While the decision was limited to a Virginia statute, it provided a strong rationale for the defense of academic records from disclosure.

Pages

Subscribe to Academic Freedom