Academic freedom, graduate programs, undergraduate programs, faculty


Although academic freedom is considered a pillar of the academy in the United States, little legal precedent has been established to legitimize faculty academic freedom. Moreover, no legislation or case law outlines a hierarchy of academic freedom whereby institutional academic freedom may be positioned as authoritative over faculty academic freedom or vice versa. As a result, many institutions of higher education have violated academic freedom and then subsequently apologized for overstepping legal boundaries, stemming from infringing upon individuals’ rights that have not been codified through law. These apologies include a very recent one, where a university president’s remorseful remark regarding faculty academic freedom contradicted the university system’s own definition of faculty academic freedom, further blurring the concept. In this instance, the Texas Attorney General filed a brief stating faculty academic freedom did not exist, provoking an apologetic statement from the state flagship’s president. This case, along with others surveyed in this paper, illustrate a perennial struggle to outline freedoms and protections for individuals working within institutions of higher learning. These cases highlight an unresolved tension between institutional and faculty academic freedom which continue to blur the concept of academic freedom. Ultimately, balancing institutional and faculty academic freedom may require neither freedom positioned as authoritative over another. However, it is important for faculty to be aware of the specifics of their academic freedom at their institution. In this paper, we outline how one institutional system (The University of Texas) grants faculty certain freedoms but does not explicitly guarantee academic freedom, forcing apologetic institutional rhetoric.