Professors voice concerns about academic freedom

Anne Buie

The Faculty Senate discussed concerns and questions regarding academic freedom during the first meeting of the year Monday. 

This discussion stemmed from the “chilling effect” many professors felt after documents were circulated last year regarding academic freedom, English professor Jill Ehnenn said.

No action was taken during this discussion, and was instead a chance for comments, Andy Koch, chair of the Faculty Senate board said.

“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,” Enhenn said.

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.

“We need to find ways by which to deal on a regular, every day basis with issues of controversy and notions that are on the edge,” Ray Miller, professor of dance studies and theatre arts, said. “And we can’t back away with that. That’s our responsibility as professors.”

The faculty must have a voice in answering questions regarding academic freedom, associate professor of art April Flanders said.

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.”

 

Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter