Response to JHU’s academic freedom statement created by the Task Force on Academic Freedom:
Paragraph 5 of the statement beginning: “Academic freedom also entails academic responsibility.” repeats itself unnecessarily in almost exact language with the following two sentences which should be combined into one:
“Faculty who express their personal views on controversial subjects in the classroom must make it clear that students may disagree with those views.”
is followed by an intervening sentence, and then essentially repeated in the final sentence of the paragraph:
“Professors who express their personal views on a contested issue must make it clear that students may disagree with those views without penalty.”
Also from a grammatical standpoint, while the issue at hand is academic freedom, which we can all agree is important, it is not so important that a major research university should capitalize it unnecessarily in a document like this. Except in the cases where it starts a sentence (and then only the ‘A’ in academic freedom should be capitalized), or perhaps in the main title which appears in all caps, academic freedom should not be capitalized anywhere in the document.
From a semantic and administrative standpoint, while it’s lovely that we have such a statement, it really doesn’t do much to actually institute any actual mechanisms to prevent administrators or professors from abusing the academic freedoms of others in the community. The general concepts stated here are, to a great extent, already living within our community; the real step would have been in going further spelling out something further. Where are the broad guidelines for actually instituting and safeguarding these freedoms? In essence, we’ve written a lovely preamble to a constitution, but forgotten to include the actual articles.