Temple and University of Pittsburgh Academic Freedom Policies Analysis: · 23 March 2006

By Sara Dogan--SAF--10/15/05

Temple University:

The Temple University Faculty Handbook states in section I on Academic Freedom that:

All members of the faculty, whether tenured or not, are entitled to academic freedom as set forth in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure*, formulated by the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors, as follows:

"(a) Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

(b) 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. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment. (emphasis added)

(c) College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution."

Reference: http://www.temple.edu/vpfaculty/TU_Faculty_Handbook.pdf (page 3)

Analysis: The policies of Temple University accord with the AAUP guidelines in stating that professors should avoid persistently introducing into their teaching controversial material which is irrelevant to the subject of the course. However, the University policies on academic freedom do not explicitly call for professors to present a diverse range of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects they teach.

It is notable that Pennsylvania House Resolution 177 is much less stringent in its restriction on professors' professional conduct in the classroom than this existing Temple University faculty policy, holding only that the select committee will examine whether "students have an academic environment, quality life on campus and reasonable access to course materials that create an environment conducive to learning, the development of critical thinking and the exploration and expression of independent thought and that the students are evaluated based on their subject knowledge; and that students are graded based on academic merit, without regard for ideological views, and that academic freedom and the right to explore and express independent thought is available to and practiced freely by faculty and students."

We would recommend that the faculty policy forbidding the persistent introduction of irrelevant controversial material in the classroom be formulated as a student right and would further recommend that the student grievance policy be amended to explicitly state that students have the right to file a grievance when their professors persistently introduce controversial material in the classroom that is irrelevant to the subject of the course or otherwise violate students' academic freedom. Additionally, we suggest that the university make explicit the need for faculty to present a spectrum of "significant scholarly viewpoints" on the subjects they teach, which accords with the guidelines recently endorsed by the American Council on Education and 27 additional higher education organizations calling for "intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas" on university campuses.

University of Pittsburgh:

After extensive searching through the University of Pittsburgh website, faculty handbook, and university policies, a specific policy solely dedicated to the issue of academic freedom was not able to be located. However, several different policies and pronouncements of the University touch on this topic:

The University of Pittsburgh Faculty Handbook policy on Academic Integrity states that:

It is the direct responsibility of faculty to encourage free inquiry and expression and to provide an academic environment in their classrooms and in their contact with students that reflects a high standard of integrity and is conducive to learning.

Pursuant to the University's code of faculty obligations relating to academic integrity, faculty are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, as summarized below:…..

5. To describe to students, within the period in which a student may add or drop a course, orally, in writing, or by reference to printed course descriptions, the general content and objectives of a course; and announce the methods and standards of evaluation, including the importance to be assigned various factors in academic evaluations and, in advance of any evaluation, the permissible materials or references allowed during evaluation.

6. To base all academic evaluations upon good-faith professional judgment.

7. Not to consider, in academic evaluation, such factors as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, political or cultural affiliation, lifestyle, activities, or behavior outside the classroom unrelated to academic achievement.

9. Not to exploit their professional relationship with students for private advantage; and to refrain from soliciting the assistance of students for private purposes in a manner that infringes upon such students' freedom of choice.

12. To respect the dignity of students individually and collectively in the classroom and other academic contexts. (emphasis added)

Reference: http://www.pitt.edu/~provost/handbook.html (under III: Academic Policies)

Additionally, a Statement on Academic Freedom from the Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom released June 34, 2003 states in part that:

The collective commitment of the academic community to the principles of academic freedom played an important role in shaping the major American universities of the twentieth century, including our own. This commitment is most famously embodied in the "Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom" of the American Association of University Professors, first put forward in 1940 and subsequently amended and referred to or incorporated into a variety of documents…. More locally, commitment to academic freedom is embedded in the University of Pittsburgh Bylaws and safeguarded by the rights and obligations of faculty to participate in governance at the University, especially in the determination of the curriculum, the development of policies, and the selection of the faculty and of the academic leadership of the University…...

After its review of the particular context and priorities of the University of Pittsburgh at this time, the Committee affirms that, at its most fundamental, the academic freedom of all members of the University centers on the right of individual scholars to use their professional expertise to select and pursue lines of enquiry, to come to conclusions and to formulate scholarly opinions on the questions that they study, and to translate their knowledge and understanding into effective instruction appropriately grounded in principles and practices of disciplines and professions. It is the responsibility of the University to support individuals in the exercise of these rights within the bounds of available resources, the conflicting demands put on those resources, and the constraints of shared governance….

Our ability to assert the rights and privileges of academic freedom depends on our willingness to accept concomitant responsibilities at each of the levels at which academic freedom is exercised. These include the responsibility to meet the highest scholarly standards in work that is carried out under the protection of academic freedom, the responsibility to respect the academic rights of others, and the responsibility to participate constructively in collective processes through which these rights are exercised. Most especially, it implies the responsibility to treat all members of the community of scholars that constitutes the university, including students as scholars under instruction, with the dignity that respects all honestly held opinions and all cogently articulated arguments (emphasis added).

Reference: http://www.pitt.edu/~provost/afstatement.html

Analysis: It should be noted that the attempts to research the academic freedom policies of the University of Pittsburgh through the university website were extremely frustrating. A search of the site using the keywords "academic freedom" revealed over 200 web pages relating to the subject, but did not lead to a clear policy statement on academic freedom. Further attempts to locate university policies in the Faculty Handbook and Faculty Policies and Procedures sections of the website were similarly unsuccessful.

The academic freedom policies of the University of Pittsburgh do not appear to address the need for professors to avoid introducing into their teaching controversial material which is irrelevant to the subject of the course. The lack of a clear single policy addressing academic freedom makes it difficult to determine exactly what student rights are protected at the University, but it seems clear that these policies do hold that professors may not evaluate students on the basis of their political or religious beliefs, or any behavior external to the course in which the student is enrolled. The ad hoc statement of the committee on academic freedom is somewhat more explicit in stating that all members of the university community should be treated "with the dignity that respects all honestly held opinions and all cogently articulated arguments," though it is unclear whether this statement is binding. These policies do not appear to address the need for faculty to present a diverse range of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects they teach.

We would recommend that the University of Pittsburgh adopt a clear policy statement for both students and faculty on the meaning and importance of academic freedom, including both a faculty and student policy addressing the need for professors to avoid the introduction of irrelevant controversial material in the classroom. The university should also amend its student grievance policy to explicitly state that students have the right to file a grievance when their professors persistently introduce controversial material in the classroom that is irrelevant to the subject of the course or otherwise violate students' academic freedom. Additionally, we suggest that the university make explicit the need for faculty to present a spectrum of "significant scholarly viewpoints" on the subjects they teach.

Note: The policies quoted in this document are excerpts of the originals that were cut for reasons of length and to draw attention to the passages which relate to the Academic Bill of Rights and House Resolution 177. To view the complete policies, please visit the websites given in the reference links.