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I’ve followed this process from before it’s administrative beginning. It’s nice to see that we’ve got a philosophy for what academic freedom is, though I honesty fail to see how it differs from a basic definition of what academic freedom means in the last century, so congratulations to the dozens of people who spent countless hours rewriting a basic definition. We’ve done the academic equivalent of writing the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident” while failing to create any actual rules or guidelines by which the administration can hold the faculty, staff, or students accountable or which actually serve to protect the faculty, staff, or students from overstepping of authority by the university.

Where is the following “Constitution”? Where is the process for “Amendments”? Is the University actually granting any real rights here, and how are they to actually be protected? Surely we’ve evolved past the level of even the rights available during the Carolingian Renaissance and the early days of the birth of the universitas?

In particular, I find it disconcerting to see even the scant guidelines that existed in the intermediate draft that was sent for approval before it got to the board level have been removed. For example, statements like:

  • “When one is speaking on matters of public interest, it should be made clear that personal views do not represent those of the institution.”
  • or

  • “Professors who express their personal views on a contested issue must make it clear that students may disagree with those views without penalty.”

no longer appear in the statement at all.

It’s lovely that we have this new “document”, but when the rubber actually meets the road, what will we do? Will we trip, stumble, and fall down as we have occasionally in the past? Where are those general guidelines? No one will care what we’ve said in this document, but they will surely judge us more harshly in the realm of public opinion based on the future actions of the administration and this is where the real work will have to begin.

Ron Daniels has been doing some generally good things in guiding the direction of the university community, but it seems odd that, as one of the first presidents of the institution with an academic background in law and what I know to be his philosophy in social equity, that we’ve heard nothing of next steps. I hope that with books entitled “Rule of Law Reform and Development: Charting the Fragile Path of Progress” and “Responsibility and Responsiveness,” that we will see much more.