What’s Out There: Researching Academic
By Mark Mende and Rachel B. Peterson ’04
Academic freedom. That phrase has as many
different interpretations as there are people who consider it. Since
the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
in 1915, scores of publications have emerged—both print and electronic—each
with its own ideas and opinions on the controversial topic. We’ve
explored the Internet and some journal archives to compile a varied
sample of resources regarding academic freedom. They represent a broad
range of philosophical stances, and their inclusion here does not constitute
St. Lawrence’s endorsement of their content, methodologies or
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
stated on its Web site, “AAUP’s purpose is to advance
academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional
values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s
contribution to the common good.” The association was founded
by Arthur O. Lovejoy and John Dewey in 1915, when “academic freedom” was
a relatively new term (see President Sullivan’s comments on this
in xxx). Its Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure (1940)
is considered the definitive description of the association’s
principles and purposes and is widely regarded by the academic community.
Membership is open to all faculty, librarians and academic professionals
at accredited two- and four-year colleges and universities. There are
currently 45,000 members nationwide. The association’s actions
include assisting individual faculty members when their academic freedom
and due process rights may have been violated, developing policy statements
and procedural guidelines, and working with college and state legislatures
to promote effective higher education legislation.
For more information, go to http://www.aaup.org.
Students for Academic Freedom
This is a national organization
dedicated to “end[ing] the political
abuse of the university and restore[ing] integrity to the academic
mission as a disinterested pursuit of knowledge.” There are active
chapters at 135 universities nationwide. The Web site, http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org,
is a communication center for those concerned with the issue of academic
freedom. The site features articles on academic freedom from across
the country, reports of national and state legislation regarding academic
freedom, and bulletin boards and forums where individuals can post
messages regarding academic bias and political indoctrination in the
classroom. It also provides instructions for researching faculty bias
using voter registration records.
The Students for Academic Freedom handbook states, “Students
for Academic Freedom is a movement dedicated to the ideas that 1) a
university is an educational institution, not a political party; 2)
its resources and authority should be used for learning and the pursuit
of knowledge, not to indoctrinate students in a political ideology;
and 3) the principles of academic freedom and a good education require
that students have access to a diversity of viewpoints in courses,
required reading texts, and in campus activities programs.”
With the motto “You can’t get a good education if they’re
only telling you half the story,” the organization addresses
political indoctrination in the classroom, unfair grading on the basis
of political views, and a lack of diversity in reading requirements
of college courses. It lists the Academic Bill of Rights and Student
Bill of Rights as two of its basic texts. Though the mission and motto
could apply to liberals and conservatives alike, the site primarily
publicizes the concerns of conservative students who feel their rights
as members of an academic community are jeopardized by the overwhelming
presence of liberal professors.
The Parents and Students for Academic Freedom organization, http://www.psaf.org,
is founded on the same basic principles as Students for Academic Freedom
but deals with issues in the K-12 realm. It, too, fights to expose
what it sees as the increasing politicization of the American school
system while promoting the adoption of an Academic Bill of Rights for
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing public attention
to the issue of academic freedom on America’s campuses. As stated
in its mission, “The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain
individual rights at America’s increasingly repressive and partisan
colleges and universities . . . FIRE’s core mission is to protect
the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned
Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about
the means to preserve them.” The FIRE Web site, http://www.thefire.org,
includes links to recent academic freedom-related events around the
nation, links to articles regarding academic-freedom and free-speech
issues, and a case archive where the public can review academic-freedom
issues handled by FIRE at colleges and universities across the country.
www.collegefreedom.org – Titled
Academic Freedom, this site is a compilation of information related
to issues of academic freedom and freedom of speech on college campuses – Internet
and Academic Freedom; Law and Academic Freedom; Academic Freedom for
Students; Freedom of the College Press; Academic Freedom for Faculty;
Academic Freedom History; Academic Freedom Around the World; Academic
Freedom in K-12 Schools: and Academic Freedom and Religion. The site
is maintained by a Ph.D. student and has a heavy focus on court cases
and news of pertinent happenings on campuses. It gives a very good
overview of a broad range of topics that can be very helpful. The author
makes a strong effort to give both sides of the issue with a listing
of links that includes Conservative Views on Academic Freedom.
This site is part of the overall Human Rights Watch Web site. As part
of the group’s efforts to monitor abuses of the civil and personal
rights and freedoms of persons all over the world, Human Rights Watch
keeps an eye on potential abuses. The statement of purpose on the site
notes: “The academic freedom program aims to monitor, expose,
and mobilize concerted action to challenge threats to academic freedom
worldwide, and to foster greater scholarly and media attention to the
critical role played by institutions of higher education in the promotion
of human rights and the development and preservation of civil society.” The
site includes links to casework by the group, as well as its Academic
Freedom Committee members, Collaborative Efforts, Thematic Research
and Reports, and three sets of yearly World Reports. In addition, there
is a list of links to news articles.
Academic Freedom in the USA is a scholarly work by Ronald B. Standler
that seeks to define academic freedom in modern terms, as well as document
its history and evolution. Standler is an attorney and consultant based
in Massachusetts who sets out to disprove the popular notion that academic
freedom is derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In his conclusion, Standler states,“…academic freedom
in the USA is a matter of internal policy at colleges and universities.
Academic freedom in the USA is not a constitutional right
belonging to professors. Academic freedom can be a contract right granted
to professors by the administration of a college or university, but
contract rights are privately negotiated, not imposed by the
http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021125&c=1&s=mcneil – In
an article titled “The War on Academic Freedom” in The
Nation, Kristine McNeil discusses the climate of academic freedom
on college campuses in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001,
and the war on terrorism that followed shortly afterward. The article
details assaults on academic freedom committed in the name of the war
The Student Association for Freedom of Expression is a group based
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its mission statement
declares that its function is to organize support for freedom of speech
and other forms of freedom of expression. The group’s main focus
is areas of censorship related to the Internet. It provides numerous
resources for people to find out about how their organizations are
censoring the flow of electronic information.
International Web Resources
The issue of academic freedom is certainly not limited to the United
States. These Web sites indicate how the issue of academic freedom
affects people around the globe.
Great Britain: Council for Academic
Freedom and Academic Standards (CAFAS)
Canada: Society for Academic Freedom
and Scholarship (SAFS)
Europe: European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES)
Print Resources to Consider:
“Academic Freedom in Higher
Education in the Deep South”
Journal of Educational Sociology , Vol.
32, No. 6, Southern Higher Education Since the Gaines Decision: A Twenty
Year Review. (Feb., 1959), pp. 297-308.
“Academic Freedom and the State: Reflections on the
Uses of Knowledge”
The Journal of Higher Education , Vol.
59, No. 3. (May - Jun., 1988), pp. 241-262.
The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s
Harvey A. Silverglate and Alan Charles
Harper Perennial, 1998.
“Academic Freedom and Tenure:
Between Fiction and Reality”
William G. Tierney
The Journal of Higher Education ,
Vol. 75, No. 2. (Mar. - Apr., 2004), pp. 161-177.
Mark Mende is St. Lawrence’s Web master. After working in
several capacities in the University communications office in summer
and fall 2004, Rachel Peterson began a training program with Amica
Mutual Insurance Company in January 2005.