Academic Freedom, Filtering, Censorship & Institutional


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Academic Freedom, Filtering, Censorship & Institutional

  1. 1. Academic Freedom, Filtering, Censorship & Institutional Reputation
  2. 2. Academic Freedom & the Law Education Reform Act (1988) S202 - “… academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs How does this play in practice? “with privileges come obligations, such as not to bring one's institution into disrepute.” Professor Geoffrey Alderman As you might expect, it’s a potential minefield…
  3. 3. Academic freedom is…? The ability within the law to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions. The responsibility to support the same freedoms for those of differing views. The ability to discuss the affairs of one’s educational institution, in appropriate media. The responsibility to enter into such discussion with integrity and charity, not representing personal opinions as those of the educational institution.
  4. 4. Academic freedom is…? The ability to take an active part in the governance of the educational institution. The responsibility to accept decisions properly arrived at. The ability to select methods of teaching course elements which have been properly agreed. The responsibility to take full cognizance of (i) the intellectual and professional needs of students and (ii) requirement for the integrity and coherence of an academic course.
  5. 5. Academic freedom is…? The ability to select one's area of research, subject to constraints on the resources available; to publish subject to academic judgement. The responsibility to maintain high standards of scholarship & to be responsive to reasoned discussion. The right to not take part in research which is morally repugnant to the individual. The responsibility not to use such freedom in a fickle way. University of Bath Code on Academic Freedom and Corresponding Responsibilities
  6. 6. Academic Freedom is not…  A right to engage in activities which contravene the law. Although one might legitimately question or challenge the validity or application of such laws A right to use institutional facilities, resources and ‘visual identity’ to promote or engage in non-academic activities. Although one might engage in such activities in one’s own time and using one’s own resources. The "Israeli Academic Boycott”.
  7. 7. Should Academic Freedom … …guarantee unfiltered Internet, Web, or e-mail access? Yes, given the technical fallibilities (and hidden agendas) of filtering technologies. But staff/students should be informed about proper usage policies & disciplinary procedures. …guarantee unmonitored Internet, Web, or e- mail access? No, educational institutions, like any other employer, have a right to take reasonable measures to ensure that their services are being used appropriately and within the law.
  8. 8. Should Academic Freedom … Guarantee unmonitored/unfettered webspace No, the institution has the right to ensure that webpages do not lead to criminal or civil liability. Institutional webspace should only be used for institutional purposes related to an academic’s work - unless otherwise agreed. If staff/students wish to run webpages on particular subjects, there are plenty of cheap alternatives to institutional webspace. But controversial material/links related to an academic’s work should be given special consideration.
  9. 9. Should Academic Freedom … Permit the use of the institution’s title, logos etc on personal web pages based outside the institution No, the institution has the right to control the use of its image and reputation. Permit the use of an academic’s title and affiliation on externally hosted personal web pages Yes, subject to the fact that the institution should inform the academic that such use of affiliation may attract institutional scrutiny as to the effect on the University.
  10. 10. Academic Freedom requires…  An ongoing dialogue between academic staff/students and support/administrative staff.  A shared understanding of acceptable on-line activities & a flexible application of rules as necessary.  Guidance on ethical standards, and oversight of research by suitable Ethics Committees.  Clear guidance as to how to progress & eventually disseminate & publicize controversial research.  Clear statement of policy by an institution about external activities and their linkage to the institution and thus to institutional reputation.
  11. 11. Censorship? The Bell Curve, (Hernstein & Murray, 1994) - US - race issues. The Mapplethorpe Incident - University of Central England The Israel Academic Boycott – UMIST ‘… not … all expressions of opinion by academic staff members are defensible under the principles of academic freedom, particularly when those contributions have no association with the academic’s position within the University that employs them.’ Internal UMIST report
  12. 12. Treading carefully… ‘Academic freedom’ like ‘freedom of speech’ does not lend itself to easy definition. Extreme cases are easy to decide, the problems lie in the grey areas. Clear and open policy making helps to avoid ad hoc decisions by staff. Negotiation and discussion rather than abrupt action (and public debate in the letters/features pages of the THES) is advised.