Academic freedom debate continues

Anne Buie

Following last year’s controversy about academic freedom at the university, Faculty Senate discussed academic freedom at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday.

“I think many of us can agree that there has been a chill on this campus with regard to academic freedom and our faith in academic freedom especially in the classroom,” English professor Jill Ehnenn said.

Last year, several faculty members voiced their complaints when tenured sociology professor Jammie Price was placed on administrative leave after students made seven allegations against Price, including engaging in “inappropriate speech and conduct” in the classroom.

There has been a lot of fear, complaints and questions regarding academic freedom since last year, Enhenn said.

“This is not an issue that just reflects the voices of five or six people,” Enhenn said.

Faculty members expressed their concerns, questions and suggestions to the Faculty Senate and Provost of Academic Affairs Lori Gonzalez.

The administration will come up with answers regarding professors’ questions about academic freedom, Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she is committed to academics and hopes to answer questions in a way that doesn’t “pit administration against faculty.”

“I just ask that you offer the benefit of the doubt until you can prove that we are not supporting academic freedom,” Gonzalez said.

“I have no doubt in the commitment to academic freedom by the administration,” said Jeff Holcomb, associate professor of government and justice studies, “But the way we protect academic freedom is to make sure the due process policy is properly laid out.”

But not all professors were as optimistic as Holcomb following the meeting.

Matthew Robinson, professor of government and justice studies, said none of his questions were answered.

“This was very frustrating and disappointing,” Robinson said. “But I have been told that my questions will be answered by the Provost and provided to the Faculty Senate. I eagerly await those answers because these are questions that must be answered in order for faculty to be able to freely do their jobs without fear of discipline or reprisal for discussing potentially controversial or upsetting issues in class.”


Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter and ANNE BUIE, Managing Editor