Reinhardt University SACSCOC Compliance Certification

3.7.4 Academic Freedom

The institution ensures adequate procedures for safeguarding and protecting academic freedom. (Academic freedom)

Judgment check box Compliance

Narrative

Faculty members at Reinhardt University— regardless of rank or status— are entitled to academic freedom as set forth in the standards written by the American Association of University Professors in 1940.  The AAUP standards were adopted, verbatim, for use in the Reinhardt University Faculty Handbook. Reinhardt holds that academic freedom is essential to an institution dedicated to teaching, service, and scholarship, as all of these professional activities are in search of knowledge to serve the public good.

Here are the core principles inherent in Reinhardt University’s policy on academic freedom, which also serves as a guide for faculty when entering into discourse on controversial and political topics:

  1. Faculty are granted full freedom in research and in the publication of their findings.  Research publications that result in profits should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution. [1]
  2. Faculty are entitled to freedom in the teaching classroom in order to discuss their subject expertise.  The institution, however, urges faculty to be “careful not to introduce in their teaching controversial matter that has no relation to their subject.” [1]
  3. Faculty are officers of the institution, learned professionals, and citizens. Like all citizens, faculty are free to engage in political activities, but when they speak or publish as citizens they should be “free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations” upon them.  The public may judge a faculty member’s position as representative of the professor’s “profession” or “institution.” Thus, Reinhardt faculty should be “accurate,” use “appropriate restraint,” “show respect for the opinions of others,” and “make every effort” to clarify that they are speaking as a citizen and not for Reinhardt University. [1]
  4. All faculty are granted protection “against illegal or unconstitutional discrimination by the institution… including but not limited to race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or sexual preference” [1]

In addition to providing a policy and procedural guidelines for academic freedom, Reinhardt University also publishes a statement on “Professional Ethics,” which works hand-in-hand with the responsibilities provided by freedom in the classroom, on campus, in research, in publication, and in the community:

The members of Reinhardt University’s faculty, administration, and staff are expected to maintain the highest level of ethics to reflect favorably upon their profession, their status as role models for students, and their position as representatives of the University and its mission.  Ethical standards are especially crucial if the various members of the Reinhardt community are to continue to enjoy the mutual respect and collegiality that have traditionally characterized this institution.  In particular, it is important for the faculty, the administration, and the staff to establish warm, mentoring relationships with students, yet to maintain a professional level of discretion regarding the release of sensitive, private information about other students, administrators, faculty members, staff members, or the internal workings of the University.  With regard to issues of sexual harassment, faculty, administrative, and staff members should be especially aware of their positions of relative power in relation to students and subordinate employees.  Faculty, administrative, and staff members are ethically obligated to model principles of academic and personal integrity.  In the classroom, faculty members are to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects their professional status, respects the students they teach, and creates an environment of mutual respect and tolerance that allows for discussion of conflicting ideas, beliefs, and opinions without fear or distrust. [2]

In Section II, 5.0 of the Faculty Handbook, Reinhardt uses the “Professional Ethics” statements provided by AAUP adopted in 1987 as its policy:

  1. Professors, guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them.  Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it.  To this end, professors devote their energies to developing and improving their scholarly competence.  They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge.  They practice intellectual honesty.  Although professors may follow subsidiary interests, these interests must never seriously hamper or compromise their freedom of inquiry.
  1. As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students.  They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline.  Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors.  Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit.  They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student.  They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.  They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them.  They protect their students’ academic freedom.
  1. As colleagues, professors have obligations that derive from common membership in the community of scholars.  Professors do not discriminate against or harass colleagues.   They respect and defend the free inquiry of associates.  In the exchange of criticism and ideas, professors show due respect for the opinions of others.  Professors acknowledge academic debt and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues.  Professors accept their share of faculty responsibilities for the governance of their institution.
  1. As members of an academic institution, professors seek above all to be effective teachers and scholars.  Although professors observe the stated regulations of the institution, provided the regulations do not contravene academic freedom, they maintain their right to criticize and seek revision.  Professors give due regard to their paramount responsibilities within their institution in determining the amount and character of work done outside it. When considering the interruption or termination of their service, professors recognize the effect of their decision upon the program of the institution and give due notice of their intentions.
  1. 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. [2]

Reinhardt University publicizes its policies on “Academic Freedom and Responsibility” and “Professional Ethics” in the Faculty Handbook, which is updated annually.  The Faculty Handbook may be accessed via Reinhardt’s campus management system, EagleWeb. [3]  New members to the Reinhardt University faculty experience a day of orientation lead by the Provost and School Deans, which covers important policies such as academic freedom and professional ethics.

There have been no instances in recent University history where the policy on academic freedom or ethics has been challenged.

Supporting Documents

[1] Reinhardt University Faculty Handbook, Section II, 4.0 – 4.4

[2] Reinhardt University Faculty Handbook, Section II, 5.0 – 5.5

[3] Screenshot of University Intranet Main Site