Academic Freedom

BCAAUP Statement on Academic Freedom and Free Speech (voted by the membership, January 2011)

The Boston College chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is committed to the principle of academic freedom for all university faculty. Academic freedom is the freedom to discuss all relevant matters in the classroom, to explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, and to speak or write without institutional discipline or restraint on matters of public concern as well as on matters related to professional duties and the functioning of the University. With this freedom comes the responsibility to faithfully perform professional duties and obligations, to recognize the standards of scholarly enterprise, and to make it clear that when one is speaking on matters of public interest, one is not speaking for the institution. This freedom and academic responsibility belong to tenured, tenure track, and contingent faculty (full-time and part-time) as well as graduate students involved in teaching. We agree with the AAUP that tenure is the chief bulwark of academic freedom for all. BCAAUP believes that academic freedom on campus must exist both inside and outside the classroom and that the freedom to teach and the freedom to learn are inseparable. Indeed, teaching our students to engage with controversy in a critically reflective and ethically attentive manner is part of our university’s Jesuit tradition and mission. This mission can only be achieved if students are permitted and encouraged to explore and debate ideas openly, including those emanating from other religious traditions and value systems. As teachers, advisers, researchers, and clinicians, faculty must be free to explore, teach, and train students in all relevant areas, even those that might conflict with Catholic Church teachings. Any attempt to censor what our students learn, to confine faculty freedom of speech to fields of specialization or to impede access to ideas or information diminishes the intent of the university’s mission. We support a speaker policy that provides Boston College students with the privileges and responsibilities of sponsoring speakers and intellectual events of their own choosing, and we encourage faculty to take an active role in mentoring students and student organizations. These activities further our students’ education and prepare them to be active and responsible citizens in a nation that protects First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. Some sponsored speakers and events will inevitably prove more controversial than others. The BC chapter agrees with the national AAUP that those routine procedures required by an institution

before a guest speaker is invited to appear on campus should be designed only to ensure that there is orderly scheduling of facilities and adequate preparation for the event, and that the occasion is conducted in a manner appropriate to an academic community. While the administration is free to announce that it does not officially endorse a speaker or his/her views, the university should not cancel a speech or event because people on campus or in the community either disagree with its content or disapprove of the speaker.

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