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Faculty Handbook

3. 2 Academic Freedom and Responsibility

June 05, 2014

Alone among professions in modern society, the academic profession enjoys a set of personal freedoms claimed as fundamental to its full and proper exercise. These protections have evolved with the academy itself, deriving from the earliest days of universities in the European Middle Ages and developing into our day under the collective rubric of “academic freedom and tenure.” The protections implied in this phrase are accorded to professors as rights, claims they make on their peers and institutions simply by virtue of the profession they share. Only the most serious circumstance or failing could lead to the forfeiture of these rights.

A profession that accords rights of this magnitude expects of its members corresponding duties of commensurate breadth and seriousness. Though separate and distinct from such rights, academic responsibilities are largely implied by them and are intended to protect, nurture, and advance the profession that requires them for its own best end. Accordingly, except as otherwise provided in this handbook, the faculty of Lewis & Clark College assert and accept, individually and collectively, the following principles of academic freedom and responsibility:

A. Institutions of higher learning exist to discover, advance, and disseminate knowledge for the common good. Unfettered academic freedom is essential to the free search for knowledge and its free exposition. Academic rank and tenure are conferred as a means of ensuring the economic security indispensable for academic freedom and to enable the institution to fulfill its obligations to its students and to society. Academic freedom applies to all who exercise teaching responsibilities, including nontenured, part-time, visiting, and temporary teaching staff. Faculty reviews for promotion, tenure, compensation, leaves, academic support, reappointment, and other perquisites of employment shall be conducted in accordance with these principles of academic freedom.

Academic freedom carries with it duties correlative with rights, and does not preclude the adoption of minimum affirmative standards such as publication, teaching effectiveness, and institutional and community service requirements. Academic freedom and responsibility apply in the classroom, in scholarly research and publication, in institutional governance and operations, and in activities in the larger community.

B. In the classroom, academic freedom includes but is not limited to freedom of discussion and freedom to select course materials, content, methodology, and sequence within course objectives established in the official curriculum as approved by the applicable faculty. This freedom extends to controversial matters related to or connected with the course subject in the reasonable and good-faith judgment of the faculty member.

Faculty should, however, take care not to abuse this freedom. It is the mastery teachers have of their subjects and their own scholarship that entitles them to their classrooms and to freedom in the presentation of their subjects. It is improper for an instructor persistently to intrude material that has no relation to the subject, or to fail to present the subject matter of the course as announced to the students and as approved by the faculty in their collective responsibility for the curriculum. Faculty prepare each course with care, review its content regularly in light of growing knowledge in their discipline, and refine their teaching methods to suit the needs of the students they teach. They respond to the criticism and suggestions of their students and peers.

In the exercise of their freedom as teachers, faculty will establish and foster a climate of academic integrity. Students are entitled to an atmosphere conducive to learning and to nonarbitrary and nondiscriminatory treatment in all aspects of the teacher-student relationship. Professors may not refuse to enroll or teach students on the grounds of their beliefs or the possible uses to which they may put the knowledge to be gained in a course. Students should not be forced by the authority inherent in the instructional role to make particular personal choices as to political action or their own part in society. Evaluation of students and the award of credit must be based on academic performance in the good-faith judgment of the faculty member and not on irrelevant matters.

As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit in the professor’s good-faith judgment. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They will not exploit, harass, or be responsible for discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them.

C. In research, publication, and other scholarly activities, academic freedom includes but is not limited to full freedom to select topics, methodologies, forums, format, approach, and content. Scholarly activities, however, should not interfere with other academic duties.

Guided by their conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, professors recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them. Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it. To this end, professors devote their energies to developing and improving their scholarly competence. They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. They practice intellectual honesty. Although professors may follow subsidiary interests, these interests must never seriously hamper or compromise their freedom of inquiry.

As colleagues, professors have obligations that derive from common membership in the community of scholars. Professors do not discriminate against or harass colleagues. They respect and defend the free inquiry of associates. In the exchange of criticism and ideas, professors show due respect for the opinions of others. Professors acknowledge academic debts and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues.

D. In matters of institutional governance and operations, academic freedom includes but is not limited to freedom to express such views and advocate such positions as the faculty member deems to be in the best interest of the Lewis & Clark community or its constituent parts. This freedom extends to institutional goals, policies, programs, processes, and structures.

As members of an academic institution, professors seek above all to be effective teachers and scholars. Although professors observe the stated regulations of the institution, provided the regulations do not contravene academic freedom, they maintain their right to criticize and seek revision. In criticizing policies or decisions, professors avail themselves of established processes and forums, and take care to argue their positions with reason and restraint, and to avoid personal attacks on colleagues.

Professors are available for normal duties during the academic year. They meet their classes on a regular basis throughout the year, make themselves available for academic advising and counseling, and hold final examinations as scheduled. They provide good-faith evaluations of student work, maintain records for all courses taught, provide letters of recommendation as appropriate, and submit final grades in a timely fashion. As good College citizens, they attend meetings of the department, division, and full faculty, and take part in faculty retreats. They honor their students by participating in convocations and commencements.

Professors give due regard to their paramount responsibilities within their institution in determining the amount and character of work done outside it. When considering the interruption or termination of their service, professors recognize the effect of their decision upon the program of the institution and give due notice of their intentions.

E. As members of their community, professors have the rights and obligations of other citizens. Professors measure the urgency of these obligations in the light of their responsibilities to their subject, to their students, to their profession, and to their institution. When they speak or act as private persons, they avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for their college or university and may not deliberately misrepresent their position in the academy or their authority to speak for the institution. As citizens engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, professors have a particular obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom.

F. Academic tenure ensures that professors may remain in their positions until retirement. While a normal retirement age may no longer be legally mandated, professors remain responsible for the health of their disciplines and the good of their institutions. They weigh their personal needs against those of the academy for regular renewal of talent and ideas. At the appropriate time they seek partial or full retirement, opening the way to a new generation of scholars who will assume the same rights and responsibilities they have enjoyed throughout their careers.

Approved by the Board of Trustees November 21, 1997

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