Faculty Senate Seminar - December 8, 2021 Video: Academic Freedom and Responsibility in Contentious Times
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Wednesday, December 8, 2021
It is the policy of the University of Pennsylvania “to maintain and encourage freedom of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication and to protect any member of the academic staff against influences, from within or without the University, which would restrict him or her in the exercise of these freedoms in his or her area of scholarly interest.” This includes when “speaking or writing as an individual.” With this freedom, however, comes responsibilities as well: “As a person of learning and a member of an educational institution, the teacher should remember that the public may judge the profession and the institution by his/her utterances. Hence the teacher should at all times show respect for the opinions of others and should indicate when he or she is not speaking for the institution.”
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that only half of all Americans believe that colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, with nearly 60% of Republicans believing that colleges and universities are having a negative effect. In addition, nearly three quarters of Republicans believe that professors are inappropriately bringing their political and social views into the classroom, while less than a third of Democrats are concerned that students are being protected from views that they might find offensive. In this era of unprecedented ideological and partisan divides, and greater awareness of historic inequities and injustices based on race, ethnicity and gender, the principle and practice of academic freedom have increasingly been challenged across the nation through legislation, the censuring and firing of professors, and challenges raised by students, politicians, donors, and others.
Join us in a discussion about how Penn faculty – and Penn as an institution – should navigate and protect the rights and responsibilities associated with academic freedom in these contentious times.
- Michael X. Delli Carpini, Oscar Gandy Professor of Communication & Democracy, and Faculty Director of the SNF Paideia Program