Monday, December 14, 2009

Academic Freedom @ UC Berkeley

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: A Message from the Committee on Academic Freedom About Classroom Conduct of Faculty
From: "Academic Senate, Berkeley Division"
Date: Mon, December 7, 2009 6:05 pm
To: "Academic Senate Faculty, Emeriti,"

Members of the Academic Senate:

This fall, our University has been confronted with a series of contentious issues. We realize that many of us are using the on-going debates on campus as an opportunity to talk about current events in the classroom. In many cases, this can provide a valuable form of pedagogy. As result of student concerns that have been relayed to us we, the Committee on Academic Freedom, remind the Senate that our freedom to teach is balanced by our responsibilities not to misuse our position of power within the classroom so as to proselytize our particular political views, or to leave students feeling excluded from our community. For example, some student athletes have reported feeling singled out in discussions of campus athletics. Our discussions of all issues should be framed in awareness that our students hold a variety of political views. More generally, we must take care not to insert discussion into the classroom that is not germane to our course content.

Our responsibility to establish a classroom environment that is conducive to student learning and free inquiry derives from the rights and responsibilities provided to us through the principle of Academic Freedom. The University of California statement of Academic Freedom is found in a few brief paragraphs in the Academic Personnel Manual (APM 010). Of particular importance is the relationship of our Academic Freedom to our students, via the classroom. This was recently recognized by the System-wide Academic Senate through the adoption of the "Student Freedom of Scholarly Inquiry", which is Appendix B to APM 010. Both APM 010 and the Appendix B point out the important, but sometimes delicate, boundary between the discussion of contentious issues in the classroom, and the creation of an atmosphere where segments of the student population begin to feel marginalized. Academic Freedom bears with it the "correlative duties of professional care when teaching" (APM 010), and thus we encourage all Senate members to carefully review or acquaint themselves with our principles of Academic Freedom, and to carefully apply them with our colleagues and our students.

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