Message on political advocacy, academic freedom and instruction

Date:

Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Benjamin Hermalin sent the following message to the campus community on Wednesday:

I write to remind people of University policy as pertains to academic freedom and political advocacy in the classroom. While instructors enjoy considerable freedom and all individuals, when acting as private citizens, enjoy free speech rights, University policy does impose limits on using the classroom or one’s course for purposes of political advocacy. 

I call your immediate attention to Regents’ Policy 2301, which prohibits canceling a class session for the purpose of encouraging students to participate in a protest or rally.

The principal policies that apply to these matters are (URLs at end of message):

Among other limitations, these policies prohibit:

  • significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course (APM 015, Section II, A.1.b & Section B4(b) of Unit 18 agreement);
  • use of the position or powers of a faculty member to coerce the judgment or conscience of a student or to cause harm to a student for arbitrary or personal reasons (APM 015, Section II, A.5 & Section B4(h) of Unit 18 agreement); and
  • misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination, for purposes other than those for which the course was constituted, or for providing grades without commensurate and appropriate student achievement (Regents’ Policy 2301).

In addition,

  • Regents’ Policy 2301 stipulates “the right of students to have their classes held on the regularly scheduled basis and to be taught by the instructor whose responsibility it is to teach the course in question is to be upheld”; and
  • APM 015, Part II, A.1.c. defines“significant failure to adhere, without legitimate reason, to the rules of the faculty in the conduct of courses, to meet class, to keep office hours, or to hold examinations as scheduled” to be a violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct.

Instructors are also reminded of the campus’s Principles of Community and of the importance of ensuring that students are not made to feel intimidated, threatened, and/or excluded in their classes.

Instructors who have questions concerning permissible or impermissible actions should discuss them with their department chair or school dean.

Relevant URLs: The URLs for the reference policies are

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