Inquiry & Response Regarding UO Academic Freedom Policy

From: Mike Schill <mschill@uoregon.edu>

Subject: RE: Reporting a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy

Date: May 29, 2019 at 9:35:40 AM PDT

To: Senate President <senatepres@uoregon.edu>, Jayanth Banavar <banavar@uoregon.edu>, Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu>

Dear Bill,

I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence here to warrant an investigation of Kyle Henley.  I have asked Kyle what he meant when he asked Dave to request that all media inquiries go to Molly Blancett.  His response was that he wanted there to be a consistent response about what the provost was proposing so that rumors filled with inaccuracies didn’t spread.   While the cuts we have been required to make are expressed in dollars, they will, by necessity, be felt by human beings.  It is very important that accurate information be given to the media and thereby transmitted to potentially affected individuals.

I believe Kyle when he states that he never meant for this request to silence dissent on campus with respect to the wisdom or necessity of the cuts.   Indeed, we have encouraged folks to give us their views even when those views have been inaccurate, insulting and/or entirely infeasible.  Kyle joins me in his belief in the value of free speech and respectful, robust debate on campus, even when that speech is critical of Johnson Hall.

Kyle’s explanation rings true with me so I am rejecting your request for an investigation.

I appreciate your commitment to free speech.

Best,

Mike

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law
University of Oregon


From: Senate President <senatepres@uoregon.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, May 28, 2019 8:16 PM
To: Mike Schill <mschill@uoregon.edu>; Jayanth Banavar <banavar@uoregon.edu>; Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu>
Subject: Reporting a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy

Reporting a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy:

Dear President Schill, Provost Banavar, and General Counsel Reed:

We are writing as UO Senate President and Immediate Past President, to report a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy by VP for University Communications Kyle Henley.

UO’s Academic Freedom Policy was adopted by the UO Senate on 4/9/2014 and signed by then UO President Michael Gottfredson on 5/28/2014. The full policy is appended below.

This policy states:

“… The University of Oregon encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community. The University of Oregon protects free speech through Policy No. 01.00.16. This policy on Academic Freedom builds on these existing commitments by recognizing the special contexts of scholarship, teaching, governance, and public service.  …

  1. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.”

The email below, sent on 4/11/2019 by the Provost’s Office Communications Director David Austin at VP for Communication Kyle Henley’s request, to Angela Wilhems, Provost Banavar, and Exec Provost Scott Pratt, directs them to email the directors of the Labor Education and Research Center, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, states

“Kyle [Henley] wants to make sure that people from these areas don’t “freelance” and talk to the media about their frustrations.”

The email goes on to tell these Directors to run media inquiries through Central Communications – meaning Mr. Henley’s office. This sort of warning to administrators not to speak freely to the press is exactly the sort restriction on academic freedom that UO’s Academic Freedom Policy is meant to prohibit. The policy says

“Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individualsor as members of an agency of institutional governance.” (Emphasis added.)

Restrictions such as that imposed by this email prevent the university community and the public from obtaining accurate information about the governance of the university, and they reduce trust in the university administration. As President Schill in his 5/17/2019 “Open Mike” email put it,

“Transparency is the best policy. Whenever possible administrators should be as forthcoming as possible, subject to the privacy rights of members of our community.”

I ask you to investigate this potential violation of the Academic Freedom Policy, determine if there have been other similar violations by Central Communications, and take appropriate disciplinary actions to discourage further such violations.

Bill Harbaugh
UO Econ Prof & Senate Pres
https://senate.uoregon.edu

Chris Sinclair
UO Math Assoc Prof & Immediate Past President of the Senate


Academic Freedom Policy at https://policies.uoregon.edu/content/academic-freedom-0:Academic Freedom

The University of Oregon encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community. The University of Oregon protects free speech through Policy No. 01.00.16. This policy on Academic Freedom builds on these existing commitments by recognizing the special contexts of scholarship, teaching, governance, and public service.  

SECTION 1

  1. SCHOLARSHIP.  The University’s research mission requires that members of the UO community have autonomous freedom to conduct research and produce creative work, and to publish and disseminate that work, limited only by the standards and methods of accountability established by their profession and their individual disciplines.
  2. TEACHING. The University’s responsibility to help students to think critically and independently requires that members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint.  Matters brought up in class should be related to the subject of courses or otherwise be educationally relevant, as determined primarily by the faculty member in charge of the class.
  3. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.
  4. PUBLIC SERVICE. Public service requires that members of the university community have freedom to participate in public debate, both within and beyond their areas of expertise, and to address both the university community and the larger society with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, cultural, or other interest. In their exercise of this freedom, university community members have the right to identify their association or title, but should not claim to be acting or speaking on behalf of the University unless authorized to do so.

SECTION 2

These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences.  Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.


Austin Email

 

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