Penn State Academic Freedom Regulations Analysis · 24 March 2004

The Academic Freedom policies of Penn State University explicitly prohibit faculty members from discussing controversial topics in class that do not relate to the subject matter of their courses.

Policy HR 64 on Academic Freedom from the Penn State Policy Manual states:

" The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject. The faculty member is, however, responsible for the maintenance of appropriate standards of scholarship and teaching ability. It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects. The faculty member is expected to train students to think for themselves, and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently. Hence, in giving instruction upon controversial matters the faculty member is expected to be of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly, without supersession or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators."

Lest this statement not be clear enough, the manual continues, "No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study." [reference: http://guru.psu.edu/POLICIES/OHR/hr64.html#A]

This is actually a much stricter policy than that contained within the Academic Bill of Rights which says only that "Exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty. Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination."