Penn State’s Retreat from Academic Freedom

Free to Indoctrinate: The AAUP Applauds Penn State’s Retreat from Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne and Steve Balch
National Association of Scholars

It was the one of the best institutional statements on academic freedom in the United States, according to David Horowitz. And now it’s about to be ruined.

Pennsylvania State University’s Policy HR64: Academic Freedom was first published in 1950 and revised in 1987. The Faculty Senate recently decided that the policy needed a facelift to make the statement more “current.” For example, in 1987, “the classroom” did not include online education, nor was shared governance seen as falling under academic freedom. So last week, the Senate approved major changes that will go into effect upon approval by the president.

These changes include the deletion of key passages that described the responsibility of the professor not to introduce unrelated controversial material into the classroom. The section, “In Instructional Roles” (formerly “In the Classroom”) has been changed as follows:

It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects. The Faculty members are is expected to educate train students to think for themselves, and to facilitate provide them access to those relevant materials which they need to form their own opinions if they are to think intelligently. Hence, in giving instruction upon controversial matters the fFaculty members are is expected to present information fairlybe of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly, without supersession or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators that arise out of scholarly methodology and professionalism.

No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study.

Inside Higher Ed describes the revision decision largely in a positive light and cites the Faculty Senate chair, Jean Landa Pytel, saying that no specific incident prompted the alterations. But David Horowitz’s praise for the old policy could have been a factor. Horowitz, a longtime champion of academic freedom for both faculty members and students, held up HR64 as evidence that some universities value true academic freedom, at least in theory. He cited it in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America and in testimony to the Pennsylvania legislature in 2005.

The article continues at

H/T American Power where Prof. Douglas reminds his readers:

…Penn State, some might recall, was at the center of the IPCC global warming e-mail hacking scandal. Lead scientist Michael Mann was cleared after an investigation. Yet for some reason I don’t get the feeling Penn State’s the model of integrity in teaching and research at the academy.

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