Academic Freedom: Course Content

2012-10-02 23:43:46 by admin

Academic freedom

Academic freedom: External Attempts to Regulate Faculty

Academic freedom: Internal Conflicts Over Faculty Actions

Academic freedom: Faculty Language

Academic freedom: Course Grading

Academic freedom: Faculty Criticism of Employers

Courts consistently uphold the authority of colleges and university officials, absent unconstitutional intent, to regulate curriculum, including the content of courses. In the 1970s, institutions prevailed when officials chose not to renew the Contracts of two faculty members who failed to meet their expectations for course workload, rigor, and coverage of topics. Another court found no violation of Academic freedom when officials at an institution refused to assign an additional class to a part-time lecturer after she was unwilling to explain to her students precisely what was required to receive a final grade in a writing class in which 13 of 17 students had incomplete grades.

Courts generally support colleges and universities when faculty members unilaterally change approved curriculum or practices. Illustrative of this pattern is a case from the Tenth Circuit in which the court found that a faculty member had no right of Academic freedom to reject the institution’s standardized student evaluation policy because she did not believe that teaching and learning could be evaluated by a standardized process. However, a university’s authority to control classroom activities is not absolute. Courts ruled for faculty members in two cases where administrators reacted to classroom content (one involved a controversial play, the other use of profane and offensive language in a pedagogical manner and related to course content) when community opposition created what one court described as administrators’ unsubstantiated fear of disturbance. In other litigation, a federal appellate court remanded a faculty member’s claim to a federal trial court in New York; the claim alleged that he was deniedtenureas a result of community pressure in a controversy over the identification in his course, The Politics of Race, of Zionism along with Nazism and apartheid as the main forms of racism. As such decisions are increasingly politicized, it will be interesting to observe how institutions of higher learning, and undoubtedly the courts, balance the conflicting values of the free exchange of ideas in academic settings and the free speech rights of faculty members.

Courts have also agreed that officials at educational institutions have the authority to discipline faculty members who interject their religious beliefs into courses unrelated to religious topics. Two decisions upheld university restrictions (on lecture content, course materials, and optional class meetings) placed on faculty members who included religious beliefs in their lectures, and in one instance changed a departmental course syllabus to include religion as a topic in educational media and exercise physiology courses. Moreover, other courts rejected claims that officials violated individuals’ rights to freedom of speech, in one case by terminating the employment of a member of a mathematics department who began each class by reading from the Bible, and in another case by choosing not to reemploy a part-time cosmetology instructor who gave two religious pamphlets on the sinfulness of homosexuality to a gay student.