The Responsibilities That Attach to Academic Freedom — Part 1.

Last week, Daily Academic Freedom began the work of comparing what UNESCO, AAUPAUCC, and CAUT, and the University of Waterloo each have to say about various aspects of academic freedom. On Thursday, we summarized their respective characterizations of the source and purpose of academic freedom. Friday, we listed which individual rights and freedoms each body recognizes as falling under the broader umbrella of academic freedom. Yesterday was a holiday, so we took a break. Today, we resume our project by shifting our focus from freedoms to responsibilities and duties? What, if any, are the responsibilities that attach to academic freedom?


What UNESCO says:

VII. Duties and responsibilities of higher education teaching personnel 

33. Higher-education teaching personnel should recognize that the exercise of rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities, including the obligation to respect the academic freedom of other members of the academic community and to ensure the fair discussion of contrary views. Academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research on an honest search for truth. Teaching, research and scholarship should be conducted in full accordance with ethical and professional standards and should, where appropriate, respond to contemporary problems facing society as well as preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the world.

34. In particular, the individual duties of higher education teaching personnel inherent in their academic freedom are:

(a) to teach students effectively within the means provided by the institution and the state, to be fair and equitable to male and female students and treat those of all races and religions, as well as those with disabilities, equally, to encourage the free exchange of ideas between themselves and their students, and to be available to them for guidance in their studies. Higher-education teaching personnel should ensure, where necessary, that the minimum content defined in the syllabus for each subject is covered;

(b) to conduct scholarly research and to disseminate the results of such research or, where original research is not required, to maintain and develop their knowledge of their subject through study and research, and through the development of teaching methodology to improve their pedagogical skills;

(c) to base their research and scholarship on an honest search for knowledge with due respect for evidence, impartial reasoning and honesty in reporting;

(d) to observe the ethics of research involving humans, animals, the heritage or the environment;

(e) to respect and to acknowledge the scholarly work of academic colleagues and students and, in particular, to ensure that authorship of published works includes all who have materially contributed to, and share responsibility for, the contents of a publication;

(f) to refrain from using new information, concepts or data that were originally obtained as a result of access to confidential manuscripts or applications for funds for research or training that may have been seen as the result of processes such as peer review, unless the author has given permission;

(g) to ensure that research is conducted according to the laws and regulations of the state in which the research is carried out, that it does not violate international codes of human rights, and that the results of the research and the data on which it is based are effectively made available to scholars and researchers in the host institution, except where this might place respondents in peril or where anonymity has been guaranteed;

(h) to avoid conflicts of interest and to resolve them through appropriate disclosure and full consultation with the higher education institution employing them, so that they have the approval of the aforesaid institution;

(i) to handle honestly all funds entrusted to their care for higher education institutions for research or for other professional or scientific bodies;

(j) to be fair and impartial when presenting a professional appraisal of academic colleagues and students;

(k) to be conscious of a responsibility, when speaking or writing outside scholarly channels on matters which are not related to their professional expertise, to avoid misleading the public on the nature of their professional expertise;

(l) to undertake such appropriate duties as are required for the collegial governance of institutions of higher education and of professional bodies.

35. Higher-education teaching personnel should seek to achieve the highest possible standards in their professional work, since their status largely depends on themselves and the quality of their achievements.

36. Higher-education teaching personnel should contribute to the public accountability of higher education institutions without, however, forfeiting the degree of institutional autonomy necessary for their work, for their professional freedom and for the advancement of knowledge.


Recall that the AAUP’s 1940 statement on academic freedom is still in effect. However, in 1970, the Association added a series of endnoted comments to the 1940 statement to elaborate the details.

The 1940 statement itself mentions responsibilities three times. First, in the preamble, it says that academic freedom “carries with it duties correlative with rights.” Then, a portion of Paragraph 1 of the main body states that “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties.”

Paragraph 3 notes:

College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

In 1970, the AAUP added the following notes:

First 1970 comment: The Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors have long recognized that membership in the academic profession carries with it special responsibilities. Both associations either separately or jointly have consistently affirmed these responsibilities in major policy statements, providing guidance to professors in their utterances as citizens, in the exercise of their responsibilities to the institution and to students, and in their conduct when resigning from their institution or when undertaking government-sponsored research. Of particular relevance is the “Statement on Professional Ethics” adopted in 1966 as Association policy (AAUP, Policy Documents and Reports, 11th ed. [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015], 145– 46).

The 1970 comments also spell out the test for whether a professor’s extramural comments should lead to disciplinary action, and provide some detail about how that process should proceed.

Finally, the 1970 comments note the following:

Paragraph 5 of the “Statement on Professional Ethics,” Policy Documents and Reports, 146, also addresses the nature of the “special obligations” of the teacher:

As members of their community, professors have the rights and obligations of other citizens. Professors measure the urgency of these obligations in the light of their responsibilities to their subject, to their students, to their profession, and to their institution. When they speak or act as private persons, they avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for their college or university. As citizens engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, professors have a particular obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom.

Both the protection of academic freedom and the requirements of academic responsibility apply not only to the full-time probationary and the tenured teacher, but also to all others, such as part- time faculty and teaching assistants, who exercise teaching responsibilities.

Eep. I’ve run out of time to finish this post. Well, that’s a start. We’ll continue to chip away at responsibilities tomorrow, at which time we’ll summarize UNESCO and AAUP more pithily, and survey what CAUT, AUCC, and Waterloo say. And, as we’ve done in the last two posts, we’ll keep populating our handy chart. (If you are still reading what is becoming a seriously governance-wonky blog, you really do care about academic freedom! Yay!)