President calls for more academic freedom!

10/14/2013 update: 

That would be President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. The Chronicle has the story.

9/16/2013 update: InsideHigherEd reports on UO Academic Freedom fight

UO’s free speech fight has gone global. Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed broke the story on Thursday, then CUNY’s Cory Robin posted his take on his blog and on the popular Crooked Timber (tagline: Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made). He included a call to faculty worldwide to write President Gottfredson about this nastiness, and from the emails I’ve seen, they certainly have. The pro academic freedom Foundation for Individual Rights in Education blogged about it here, and Betsy Hammond of the Oregonian has a related story here. Info on the administration’s bizarre “open letter” accusing me of being anti-university is here.

9/12/2013 update: I really hope the UO administration and President Gottfredson think this post is sufficiently civil and respectful. I’d just hate to get disciplined for being too blunt in a post about free speech. Their “open letter” post about me is here.


Today, reporter Colleen Flaherty of InsideHigherEd.com has an excellent story on the academic freedom debates occurring between the UO faculty union and the administration, here. (See below for the live-blog of the 4/17/2013 Senate meeting leading up to a unanimous vote in favor of the Academic Freedom Policy, which President Gottfredson then rejected.):

… Oregon’s existing policy [Approved by President Lariviere] calls free inquiry and free speech “the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge.” The belief that an opinion is “pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or ‘just plain wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression,” it says. …

Margaret Paris, professor of law and president of the Faculty Senate, has not been involved in union negotiations but said that the union statement likely would set a precedent for the ultimate Senate document, since it would be difficulty to work off two different policies when most of the faculty belong to the union (although law professors do not).

Paris also said she was aware of the university’s preference [I think this should read Randy Geller’s preference] to decouple academic freedom and free speech in the final Faculty Senate statement, and that she would likely support it. Because the document applies to all university employees, it makes sense that academic freedom – which protects faculty but not staff – deserves individual attention, she said.

Oregon’s administration works closely with the Faculty Senate and Paris is looking forward to a collaborative process finalizing the document, she said. 

The new UO policy, unanimously approved by the Senate, which Gottfredson refused to sign, said:

Freedom of Speech 

All University employees retain the right to address any matter of institutional policy or action without fear of institutional discipline or restraint. They also are guaranteed the protections of freedom of speech with regard to any matter, so long as it is clear that they are not acting or speaking on behalf of the University. 

Contractual Force of Policy 

This Policy on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech shall be given contractual force by incorporation into pertinent contractual and collective bargaining agreements and individual letters of appointment. It shall be incorporated into the Faculty Handbook and the UO University Policy Library.

Gottfredson rejected this Senate policy back in May or so. Does anyone know if the Senate ad-hoc committee has met to try and work out the changes he asked for? I can’t find anything in the UO policy library, just what Lariviere approved in 2010.)

Bill Harbaugh, professor of economics and moderator of the “UO Matters” blog, which is frequently critical of university policy, said decoupling academic freedom from free speech left room for administrators to punish those faculty – like him – who say things administrators don’t like. He also objected to the idea that administrators would be the ones deciding what qualifies as “civil.” 

The university has previously publicly accused Harbaugh of including “consistently anti-university” statements on his blog. …

Asked about the civility clause, [Dave] Hubin said Oregon has a long history of promoting respectful discourse – one that’s covered by the university’s existing policy on academic freedom and free speech: “It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the university community.” Any determination of what’s civil would likely include faculty input, he said.

The reporter apparently couldn’t get an interview with Gottfredson – I don’t think anyone has since January, when ODE student reporter Dash Paulson asked him why he’d cracked down on public records. But she includes a boilerplate email from him about how great freedom is.

Here is the live-blog of the 4/17/2013 Senate meeting (by a guest blogger) leading up to a unanimous vote in favor of the Academic Freedom proposal that President Gottfredson then rejected:

3.2 Motion (Policy Adoption): Academic Freedom & Freedom of Speech;
Margie Paris (Law), Senate President-Elect & Chair, Academic Freedom
Review Committee

Presumably Mr. Geller will be there to defend his work, which should be interesting. It looks to me like the Senate committee handling this did a bang-up job editing the proposal from our administrative overlords:

Geller had removed “they are entitled to comment on our criticize University policies or decisions” from the original draft, and added a lot of other restrictive language. Because this free speech stuff is dangerous, and we don’t want our students getting any ideas from the faculty.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: this blog has never criticized University policies or decisions. Just administrative ones. Which makes me a little worried about this job ad:

Plumber
Campus Operations
http://jobs.uoregon.edu/classified.php?id=4575

That’s right, the president’s counsel is hiring “plumbers” to conduct “campus operations”. We know where that leads.

Notes: Seems like Geller chickened out.

Kyr reads the motion.

3:34: Margie Paris gives history of this motion: a committee in 2010 made a “very able and well-written draft” passed by the Senate and submitted to Administration. “A lot happened and it was not approved.” The GC office had “suggestions and changes” it wanted to see in the policy. When Gottfredson arrived, Kyr asked him for permission to take up the three policies—facilities, academic freedom, I forget the 3rd

The new committee started with the language that the UO Senate had approved. “This version is very close to the original language the Senate had approved.” Small committee of Paris and 3 others accepted some of the GC office’s suggestions, and discarded others. Tightened up the preamble, mentioned the mission statement of the UO.

Margie: “I didn’t realize how impt these statements are, not only in their own right but because accrediting bodies ask to see these statements.”

Adkins: asks to amend the policy to include officers of administration, who are not included in this policy but deserve this freedom as well.

“The University protects academic freedom, and Officers of Instruction, Research, and Administration [“faculty members”] shall enjoy…”

Passes unanimously.

Psaki: again, simple and uncontroversial.

Sinclair: “the freedom to teach”: does this mean anyone can walk into a classroom and teach?

Paris: No. Read the context.

Foster: Curious about the interpretation of “so long as it is clear that they are not acting or speaking on behalf of the university.” The interpretation of that can be quite wide. Nationally people have been identified as a professor, and were penalized for that. How far do you have to go to establish that you are not speaking on behalf of the university, and what does that mean anyway?

Paris: I’ve thought long and hard about this. This is a change suggested by GC. If I write an editorial, I should specify in it that I’m not speaking on behalf of the U. We have certain freedoms due to our role, and we have the responsibility to clarify when we are not speaking for the institution.

Foster: It’s actually very unusual for professors to state this. It’s usually taken for granted. Does this then apply to academic articles? TV appearances? Radio interviews? It’s actually a new requirement, and awkward. I don’t want to be seen as supporting Ward Churchill, but there have been cases where people have been disciplined for speaking their minds and identified as professors—how far does this go?

Merskin: In wrtg we often say “in my 20 years of teaching” etc. we refer to our prof. exper. to back up our point of view.

We weren’t asking for a statement everyone should make, which would restrict freedom of speech.

Kyr: a statement of intent.

Paris: there are many situations and contexts where it is quite clear that one is not speaking for the university. Where there might be ambiguity or confusion, it’s appropriate to add a statement. This would clearly not apply to research publications.

Jin: what does “to fulfill the demands of the scholarly enterprise” mean?

Paris: this is from the original draft; it’s a way of articulating both the freedom and the responsibility it entails.

Jin: What kind of scholarly enterprise? Am I free to deny requests for my syllabus from people who aren’t enrolled?

Paris: the ‘demands’ in question aren’t any demands anyone might make of you; they are the demands that are part of your job.

Motion passes unanimously. Yippee!



9/9/2013 update: As discussed below, The UC system recently worked in cooperation with its faculty to develop a strong statement on academic freedom and freedom of speech. I got curious about what position if any President Gottfredson took in that process, so I made a public records request last night to UC-Irvine for his related emails:

This is a public records request for any emails, memos, or other documents sent to or received by former UC-Irvine Provost Michael Gottfredson, dealing with the UC system’s new policy on academic freedom, which is described in this IHE news story: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/29/u-california-board-regents-adopts-new-measure-academic-freedom 

This request covers the period 1/1/2008 to the termination of Provost Gottfredson UC employment, or the closing of his UC email accounts, if that was later.

10:30 this morning, I get this response from the UC-Irvine public records office:

With regard to the time needed to process your request, please note that we are not the office of record for these requests and we cannot tell you how long the search will take at this time.  We will let you know what the results of our search are as soon as possible.

With respect to fees, please note that our office typically waives the cost and no fees are expected for your request. 

We will process your request today.  You should see an official acknowledgement email from us shortly.

Meanwhile, here at UO, Dave Hubin’s public records office is still trying to charge me $225 to tell me who which UO anonymous administrators wrote that “Open Letter to the UO Community

 9/8/2013: Gottfredson to gut Senate’s Academic Freedom Policy:

 The current UO policy on Academic Freedom is here:

… Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings. 

Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression….

The Senate’s April 2013 revision is here. President Gottfredson has still not signed it. A well-informed correspondent passes along this:

Minutes of May 22, 2013 Senate Meeting” “3.9 Academic Freedom & Freedom of Speech Policy (Kyr) 

Senate President Kyr informed the Senate that President Gottfredson preferred that the Senate divide this policy into two different policies; one addressing academic freedom and the other addressing freedom of speech. Senate President Kyr had agreed to these terms and mentioned that this would be a change in formatting, not content. This policy would be carried into Senate VP Paris’ (Law) administration in case further discussion was needed.”

Note that Kyr was not acting properly when he made this agreement. Only the Senate had that authority. They will exercise it as they see fit in the coming year.

The faculty union’s Academic Freedom Article was basically the same as the Senate proposal. Instead of accepting it, Gottfredson’s bargaining team has put up a counter-proposal that limits some rather basic freedoms that faculty assume we have.

In particular, the proposal from President Gottfredson’s bargaining team includes none of the forceful pro free-speech language from current UO policy. It also strikes out the Senate’s language guaranteeing faculty the right to engage in criticism of university policies and actions, replacing it with language that seems to limit this right to situations where the faculty are working through committees or other university approved forums.

In addition, his proposal requires that faculty treat colleagues “fairly and civilly”, and that participation in shared governance be “civil and effective”. Sounds great, but who gets to define these words? I’m guessing it’s rare that a faculty meeting, not to mention a seminar, can go on for more than an hour without at least one person crossing the line. The administration wants us to resolve these sorts of arguments with grievances and arbitration? 

In the bargaining session discussion the administration’s team made it pretty clear they don’t think this blog can pass those rather vague tests. This is presumably the reason they are trying to add them to the contract, since their efforts under existing UO policy and Oregon law to shut me down have failed – including a threatened defamation lawsuit from Gottfredson’s lead negotiator Sharon Rudnick, and a bizarre “open letter to the UO community” about me posted on the official UO webpages, from GC Randy Geller, VPAA Doug Blandy, Dean Tim Gleason, attorney Sharon Rudnick, and VPAA and Oregon Humanities Center Director Barbara Altmann.
Here is the Senate proposal, with the more egregious changes President Gottfredson is trying to impose marked like this for deletions, and in bold for insertions. A pdf of the latest admin proposal to the union, showing more differences, is here.

Academic Freedom 

The University protects academic freedom, and Officers of Instruction, Research, and Administration [“faculty members”] shall enjoy all of its benefits and responsibilities. These are defined as: 

  • the freedom to conduct research and creative work and to publish or otherwise disseminate the results of that work. Within the broad standards of accountability established by their profession and their individual disciplines, faculty members must enjoy the fullest possible freedom in their research and in circulating and publishing their results. This freedom follows immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. 
  • the freedom to teach, both in and outside of the classroom. Faculty members must be able not only to disseminate the results of research, but also to train students to think about these results for themselves, often in an atmosphere of controversy that, so long as it remains in a broad sense educationally relevant, actively assists students in mastering the subject and appreciating its significance. 
  • the freedom to engage in internal criticism, which encompasses the freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action whether or not as a member of any agency of institutional governance. Universities promote the common good through broad-based engagement in the scholarly endeavor. Faculty members, because of their education and their institutional knowledge, play an indispensable role as independent participants in university decision-making. By virtue of this role, they are entitled to comment on or criticize University policies or decisions, either individually or through institutions of faculty governance.

Faculty responsibilities:

All University employees retain the right to address any matter of institutional policy or action without fear of institutional discipline or restraint. They also are guaranteed the protections of freedom of speech with regard to any matter, so long as it is clear that they are not acting or speaking on behalf of the University. 

Academic responsibility implies the competent and full performance of duties and obligations and the commitment to support the responsible exercise of academic freedom by one’s self and others. Each bargaining unit faculty member has the responsibility to 

a. Observe and uphold the ethical standards of his or her discipline in the pursuit and communication of scientific and scholarly knowledge; 

b. Treat students, staff, colleagues, and the public fairly and civilly in discharging his or her duties and in accordance with this Agreement. 

c. Respect the integrity of the evaluation process, evaluating students, staff, and colleagues fairly according to the criteria and procedures specified in the evaluation process; 

d. Represent one’s self as speaking for the university only when expressly authorized to do so as part of one’s position or professional responsibilities; 

e. Participate, as appropriate, in the system of shared academic governance, especially at the department or unit level, and seek to contribute to the civil and effective academic functioning of the bargaining unit faculty member’s academic unit (program, department, school or college) and the university.

A helpful commenter notes:

Why not remind the president of what the UC Board — his former employer — just did to strengthen and confirm academic freedom? In July the UC Board newly upheld the “freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action when acting as a member of the faculty whether or not as a member of an agency of institutional governance.” If it’s good enough for California, why is it not good enough for UO?

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/29/u-california-board-regents-adopts-new-measure-academic-freedom

    Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

    11 Responses to President calls for more academic freedom!

    1. Juvenal says:

      First you make them laugh, then you make them think. If that’s not civil discourse I don’t know what is.

      Your administrators can’t stand he thought of people laughing at them, or thinking about what they do, and don’t do.

      They believe they are going to get you for writing satire. You should hope they try. People will just laugh more, and then think more.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    2. Anonymous says:

      Why not remind the president of what the UC Board — his former employer — just did to strengthen and confirm academic freedom? In July the UC Board newly upheld the “freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action when acting as a member of the faculty whether or not as a member of an agency of institutional governance.” If it’s good enough for California, why is it not good enough for UO?

      http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/29/u-california-board-regents-adopts-new-measure-academic-freedom
      http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/aar/jule.pdf

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    3. Thedude says:

      I would assume this just when I’m representing the University of Oregon. What’s the University of Nike policy?

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • UO Matters says:

        You ask what is our policy? I can answer in a word: victory.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    4. Anonymous says:

      I don’t think you should mix up a potential defamation suit by a law firm with administrators wanting to get rid of you. They are not the same thing, or the same set of people.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    5. Thedude says:

      Particularly disconcerting is the rule that meetings be civil AND effective. How many meetings are actually effective? Does the requirement for effective meetings extend to the admin? If so, are they prepared for the necessary voluntary furloughs. This is a slippery slope indeed my friends.

      In that regards. Is the phrase “Asked and answered,” every considered both civil and effective?

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    6. Old Man says:

      Last Winter or Spring, right on schedule, MG returned the Senate’s proposed policy on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech to the Senate with the request that they split it into two parts and resubmit. This would require a Senate action, and there is no evidence in the Senate Minutes that the then President of the Senate acted on MG’s request. I expect that the matter will move forward early in the Fall.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • UO Matters says:

        Thanks, fellow traveler. You got a link to that request?

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • Old Man says:

        Minutes of May 22, 2013 Senate Meeting” “3.9 Academic Freedom & Freedom of Speech Policy (Kyr)

        Senate President Kyr informed the Senate that President Gottfredson preferred that the Senate divide this policy into two different policies; one addressing academic freedom and the other addressing freedom of speech. Senate President Kyr had agreed to these terms and mentioned that this would be a change in formatting, not content. This policy would be carried into Senate VP Paris’ (Law) administration in case further discussion was needed.”
        Note that Kyr was not acting properly when he made this agreement. Only the Senate had that authority. They will exercise it as they see fit in the coming year.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    7. Old Man says:

      Sometimes UOM asks rhetorical questions. For example: “(Gottfredson rejected the Senate policy back in May or so. Does anyone know if the Senate ad-hoc committee has met to try and work out the changes he asked for? I can’t find anything in the UO policy library, just what Lariviere approved in 2010.)”
      I think Senator Bill could have told UOM that (1) The ad-hoc Committee has not met to act on MG’s request to split the Senate-Academic Freedom/ Freedom of Speech Policy Proposal because the Senate did not charge them to do so, I believe the Senate would have done so if President Kyr, who conveyed MGs wish and asked the Senate to accept the wish and to activate the ad-hoc Committee, or some variant of it. I imagine (and UOM must suspect) that Margie Paris will get on that at an early Fall Senate meeting.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.