Faculty Senate passes motion for update in academic freedom language of Faculty Handbook

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Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Rebecca Crown Center. The revisions were at least two years in the making and were formally passed by the Faculty Senate on Wednesday.

Grace Wu, Copy Chief

Faculty Senate passed a motion to update academic freedom language in the University’s Faculty Handbook, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of University faculty, during its Wednesday meeting. 

Some of the changes and additions in the handbook’s language include extending academic freedom to tenure-eligible and non-tenure-eligible faculty as well as the work of faculty in publications and abroad, according to English Prof. Harris Feinsod, who co-authored the legislation. 

When the proposal underwent its first reading during a June 2 meeting, the Senate decided to call a special meeting over the summer to allow for more time for faculty review of the legislation and proposed changes. 

This revision has been at least two years in the making. The bulk of the handbook’s directives on academic freedom are from a 1940 standard from the American Association of University Professors. 

The new language surrounding academic freedom will strengthen faculty protection with relation to shared governance of the institution, Feinsod said, specifically in granting employed instructors and researchers the right to criticize and seek revisions to University policy. 

“(These are) the reasons why we feel confident that tonight, we bring forth academic freedom language in the Faculty Handbook that is a marked improvement over the language in the current handbook,” he said. 

The meeting’s attendees also discussed a small change to the language in a clause that acknowledges the increasingly interdisciplinary teaching and research methods that faculty use. Feinsod said this revision will allow faculty to stand in a relationship with both their own discipline and interdisciplinary protocols of the University. 

McCormick Prof. Luis Amaral, who said he directs an interdisciplinary center, affirmed the modified clause since faculty are more frequently teaching in departments outside of their discipline of training. 

Toward the end of the meeting, Communication Prof. Kyle Henry emphasized the Faculty Senate’s roles in identifying and addressing the “pressure points” of non-tenure-eligible faculty and if the rights outlined in the handbook, such as academic freedom, are truly extended to them. 

“Given their historical precarity, I think they would be looking to us as Faculty Senators to make sure that we live up to these principles,” Henry said. 

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