AAUP Policies In the Classroom

Academic Freedom for Students and Faculty

The freedom to teach, to learn, to discover, and to convey knowledge is fundamental to the common good of a free society. In universities and colleges, academic freedom protects the inquiries and expressions of students, teachers, researchers, scholars and other members of the academic community in different ways depending on their functions. Several AAUP policy statements describe the importance of academic freedom for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and academic professionals whose responsibilities include teaching or other academic judgments.

Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, adopted in 1940 and endorsed by 191 educational associations and learned societies:

Excerpt: Academic freedom is essential to [the common good] and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning... Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results...Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.

Interpretive Comment adopted in 1970: The intent of this statement is not to discourage what is controversial. Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to foster...

Freedom and Responsibility (full text), adopted in 1970.

Excerpts: Continuing attacks on the integrity of our universities and on the concept of academic freedom itself come from many quarters. These attacks, marked by tactics of intimidation and harassment and by political interference with the autonomy of colleges and universities, provoke harsh responses and counter-responses. Especially in a repressive atmosphere, the faculty's responsibility to defend its freedoms cannot be separated from its responsibility to uphold those freedoms by its own actions...

Membership in the academic community imposes on students, faculty members, administrators, and trustees an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off the campus. The expression of dissent and the attempt to produce change, therefore, may not be carried out in ways which injure individual or damage institutional facilities or disrupt the classes of one's teachers or colleagues...

It is the mastery teachers have of their subjects and their own scholarship that entitles them to their classrooms and to freedom in the presentation of their subjects...

Professional Ethics (full text), adopted in 1987

Excerpts: Professors, guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them. Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it...

As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline...

Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, Part V: The Faculty (full text), jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities and adopted in 1966.

Excerpts: The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process...

Faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility...based upon the fact that [faculty] judgment is central to general educational policy. Furthermore, scholars in a particular field or activity have the chief competence for judging the work of their colleagues...

Joint Statement on the Rights and Freedoms of Students (full text), written and endorsed in 1967 by five national organizations, now known as U.S. Student Association, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrator s, and the National Association for Women in Education.

Excerpts: ...As members of the academic community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom...Students should exercise their freedom with responsibility.

Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.

Statement on Graduate Students (full text), adopted in 2000.

Excerpt: In addition to the rights to academic freedom described in the Rights and Freedoms of Students (above), graduate students because of their advanced education... should be encouraged by their professors to exercise their freedom of discussion, inquiry and expression.

(Posted 2/05)