The Ethics of Academic Freedom

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The Ethics of Academic Freedom

University of La Verne

EcBu 543
Ethics in Organizations And Society
Summer II

Professor: Rita Thakur

The Ethics of Academic Freedom

"Don't take too seriously the advice of people who supposedly know better than you do. As long as you are finding out things we didn't know before, you are doing something right." ~Doreen Kimura

The quest for knowledge can be a wonderful thing. It can help to empower those that need confidence, and can also assist in daily tasks. It can also provide an individual the means to improve his or her lifestyle. But did you know that sometimes a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing? Truly dangerous if it is not respected and handled with care. And nowhere is that most apparent, than on the campuses and in the classrooms of this nations institutions of higher education.

Even on the most tolerant of campuses, there exist individuals who are opinionated, biased, and judgmental of others' perspectives. That is to be expected. But what happens when the professors and educators (or those who have put themselves in the role as educator) have taken their freedoms for granted and base everything that they say has merit given his or her First Amendment right?

Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom exists. ."in order that society will have the benefit of honest judgment and independent criticism which might (otherwise) be withheld because of fear of offending a dominant social group or transient social attitude" (Kimura, 1993). It's a regulation to help make sure that professors and students alike have a voice on campus.

The American Association of University Professors is "a national organization committed solely to college and university faculty members. It defends academic freedom and tenure, advocates collegial governance, and develops policies ensuring due process" (Sleboda,2004). They have been extremely vocal in the assurance of academic freedom in academe. One current section on academic freedom reads as follows:

"Freedom of thought and expression is essential to any institution of higher learning. Universities and colleges exist not only to transmit knowledge. Equally, they interpret, explore, and expand that knowledge by testing the old and proposing the new.

This mission guides learning outside the classroom quite as much as in class, and often inspires vigorous debate on those social, economic, and political issues that arouse the strongest passions. In the process, views will be expressed that may seem to many wrong, distasteful, or offensive. Such is the nature of freedom to sift and winnow ideas.

On a campus that is free and open, no idea can be banned or forbidden. No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful or disturbing that it may not be expressed. "

AAUP's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, June 1992.

Academic freedom is not equivalent to the same freedoms promised us by the First Amendment. If one were to assume that, then any professor could go into a classroom and espouse his or her personal beliefs as law (which, sadly enough, some professors do). By having academic freedom, it should not excuse anyone from being held responsible for what he or she might say.

Taken from the 1940 statement of academic freedom, Point B reads as:

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. AAUP, 1940

However, UC regulations had this definition of academic freedom:

"The function of the university is to seek to transmit knowledge and to train students in the process whereby truth is to be mane known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty....
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