Adoption of the Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech Policy

Date of Notice: 
Thu, 01/27/2011
Legislation, Resolution, or Policy Adoption: 
Policy Adoption
Current Status: 
Approved at 03/09/2011 Senate Meeting

The University Senate adopts the following Policy on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech and recommends that this Policy be adopted by the University President on behalf of the University:



The University of Oregon views academic freedom and freedom of speech as the cornerstones to its functioning as a public university in the  service of a democratic society and as necessary conditions for the exercise of shared governance. The University of Oregon Constitution created and delegated daily governance authority to the University  Senate. The Constitution stipulates that the constituent groups represented by the University Senate includes the Statutory Faculty,  librarians, officers of administration, career non-tenure-track research  faculty, students, and classified staff. This policy statement defines  the conditions of academic freedom and free speech necessary for the University of Oregon and the University Senate to fulfill its roles in the creation and implementation of policy and carrying out the public  mission of the University. Crucial goals of this policy are ensuring  that all groups represented in the University Senate have adequate  protection so that they can meaningfully participate in shared  governance and clarifying a robust view of academic freedom and freedom  of speech in teaching, research, shared governance, public participation and debate.

Academic Freedom

When engaged in instruction or research the faculty and students shall enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities of academic freedom. These are defined as:

 •    the freedom to conduct research and creative work and to publish or otherwise disseminate the results of that work. Within the broad  standards of accountability established by their profession and their individual disciplines, faculty members must enjoy the fullest possible  freedom in their research and in circulating and publishing their  results. This freedom follows immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding.

 •    the freedom to teach, both in and outside of the classroom. This freedom is an outgrowth of the previous one.  Faculty members must be  able not only to disseminate to their students the results of research by themselves and others in their profession, but also to train students to think about these results for themselves, often in an atmosphere of controversy that, so long as it remains in a broad sense educationally relevant, actively assists students in mastering the subject and appreciating its significance.

 •    the freedom to engage in internal criticism, which encompasses the freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action whether or not as a member of any agency of institutional governance.

Universities promote the common good through broad-based engagement in the scholarly endeavor.  Faculty members, because of their education and  their institutional knowledge, play an indispensable role as independent  participants in university decision making. By virtue of this role, they are entitled to comment on or criticize University policies or decisions, either individually or through institutions of faculty  governance.

 •    the freedom to participate in public debate, both within and beyond their areas of expertise, and to address, as citizens, the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest, so long as it is clear that they are not acting or speaking for the University.

These academic freedoms enumerated in this policy apply without institutional discipline or restraint save in response to fundamental  violations of professional ethics or statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence. The academic freedoms of these members of the university community are rights protected by the university. This policy  shall be incorporated in employment agreements or other contractual agreements with persons engaged in instruction and/or research and given contractual force.

This policy recognizes that academic responsibility implies the  faithful performance of professional duties and obligations, the recognition of the demands of the scholarly enterprise, and the candor to make it clear that, when one is speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest, one is not speaking for the institution.

Freedom of Speech

The broader university community, when acting as members of the university community or its governance structure, is guaranteed freedom of speech rights to address any matter of institutional policy or action without fear of institutional discipline or restraint. The broader  university community is also guaranteed the protections of freedom of speech to address the larger community, as citizens, with regard to any matter, internal or external to the university, of social, political, economic, or other interest so long as it is clear that they are not acting or speaking for the University.

This policy, when approved by the UO Senate and the President, shall be incorporated into the Faculty Handbook, the UO University Policy Library and shall be incorporated in letters of appointment or other contractual agreements.

Financial Impact: 

The Ad-Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom Language and Policy Review