201  Academic Freedom and Responsibility

Approved by Board of Trustees
Effective Date: June 5, 2017
Responsible Division: Academic Affairs
Responsible Office:  University Provost
Responsible Officer:  University Provost

I. Purpose

This policy is fundamental to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU or University) and academic functioning of the faculty in instruction, research, and publication, and as members of a civic community, a learned profession, and an educational institution.

II. General

A.  Faculty members are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, being careful to avoid the persistent intrusion of matter, controversial or not, that has no bearing on the subject of instruction. Controversial material that pertains to the subject of instruction, even if it is likely to offend some people, is protected by this policy. 

B.  Faculty members are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties, including and consistent with any and all policies pertaining to clinical and research practices. Research for financial gain must be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the University, which is documented in writing and signed by the faculty member and the appropriate academic officer(s).

C.  Faculty are members of a civic community, a learned profession, and an educational institution. When faculty members speak or write as members of a civic community, they are free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. Faculty should remember that the public may judge the profession and the University by their utterances. Hence, they should be accurate, exercise appropriate restraint, show respect for the opinions of others, and make every effort to indicate that they do not represent the University when speaking as members of a civic community.

D.  Academic freedom is essential to fulfill the ultimate objectives of an educational institution – the free search for and exposition of truth – and applies to teaching, research, and faculty participation in institutional governance. Freedom in research is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. Faculty participation in institutional governance, especially participation in shared governance through the MTSU Faculty Senate, is fundamental to the development and maintenance of effective academic policies, national and regional accreditation, and shared responsibility for the delivery of educational programs and services to students. Implicit in the principle of academic freedom are the corollary responsibilities of the faculty who enjoy that freedom. Incompetence, indolence, intellectual dishonesty, failure to carry out assigned duties, serious moral dereliction, arbitrary and capricious disregard of standards of professional conduct, these and other grounds as set forth in Policy 204 Tenure, may constitute adequate cause for dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions against faculty members.

E.  Academic freedom and academic responsibility are interdependent, and academic tenure is adopted as a means to protect the former while promoting the latter. The right to academic freedom imposes upon the faculty an equal responsibility to be involved in the process of review and recommendation in matters that pertain to tenure and promotion as specified in University policy. The right to academic freedom also imposes upon the faculty an equal responsibility to take appropriate professional action against faculty members who are derelict in discharging their professional responsibilities.

F.  While academic tenure is essential for the protection of academic freedom, all faculty members, tenured or non-tenured, have an equal right to academic freedom and bear the same academic responsibilities implicit in that freedom.

Forms: none.

Revisions: none.

Last Reviewed: November 2022.

References: Policy 204 Tenure.