Academic Freedom

According to AAUP's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, faculty, tenured or not, have full freedom in their research and in the publications of the results. Furthermore, teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in regards to their subject. Controversial matters not relevant to the course should be approached with care.

Although there are many gray areas, academic freedom is usually understood as a version of "free speech" in the classroom particularly as applied to controversial subjects. It is sometimes invoked as a defense against punishment for discussing material, and even expressing opinions, that a faculty member deems relevant to the course. While faculty should take care not to indoctrinate students into a particular viewpoint, they are not required to guard their own opinions so completely that students do not know what the faculty member personally believes. Academic freedom protects a faculty member's right, for example, to reveal his/her personal political beliefs. Such revelations are not required, of course, but academic freedom creates the possibility for faculty to avoid hiding their beliefs.

Academic freedom usually does not imply complete autonomy in choosing which courses a faculty member will teach, and may not imply complete autonomy in deciding which content to include in a course, if there are curricular justifications for including material a faculty member disagrees with. There are many gray areas associated with this topic, as well.

Academic freedom is also associated with a faculty member's actions or writings as a citizen. As long as they are acting as an individual and not a representative of the academic institution, they should be free from institutional censorship.

USF policies relating to academic freedom can be found in the USF Principles of Academic Freedom and Responsibility.


American Association of University Professors. (2013). Recommended institutional regulations on academic freedom and tenure. Retrieved from http://www.aaup.org/file/RIR2013.pdf.

American Federation of Teachers. (2007). Academic freedom in the 21st century college and university: Academic freedom for all faculty and instructional staff. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/pdfs/highered/academicfreedomstatement0907.pdf.

Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2006). Academic freedom and educational responsibility. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/about/statements/documents/academicfreedom.pdf.

Dorf, M.C. (2014, August 13). Academic freedom in the Salaita case. Verdict. Retrieved from http://verdict.justia.com/2014/08/13/academic-freedom-salaita-case.

Downs, D. A. (2009). Academic freedom: What it is, what it isn't, and how to tell the difference. John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (NJ1). Retrieved from http://www.popecenter.org/acrobat/AcademicFreedom.pdf.