Academic Freedom Guidance Papers

Academic Freedom Guidance Papers

As the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) responds to "Requests for Assistance," we identify areas where our colleagues could benefit from additional guidance on academic freedom principles. These guidance papers are developed by members of the Education and Training subcommittee. Drafts are reviewed by the full CAF and revised based on feedback. Final documents are then voted on. These documents have received unanimous support from members of the CAF.

Disability Resources & Services
Federal law requires that we do not discriminate against students with disabilities, and as such, students with documented disabilities must be provided reasonable accommodations that ensure effective participation and equal educational opportunity. Academic Freedom does not provide faculty members the right to deny reasonable accommodations without participating in the interactive process. However, no accommodation may "fundamentally alter" a course. Maricopa's interactive process ensures that faculty (the subject matter experts) participate in the development of appropriate accommodations.

Grade Assignment Disputes
Assigning grades is fundamentally the right of the instructor of record; this is a principle of academic freedom. There are a few rare exceptions to this otherwise-absolute cornerstone of higher education. This guidance paper explores the reasoning behind the principle, the general stance provided by the AAUP, and the specific application of the current Maricopa policy.

Individual vs. Shared Academic Freedom
Many in higher education think of academic freedom as an individual right, but this is a misunderstanding of academic freedom principles. This guidance paper describes the role of shared academic freedom in the development of common textbooks, syllabi, assessments, and course materials. It also explores Maricopa policy and explicitly discusses the involvement of contingent faculty members.

Master Courses/Rubrics for Review of Courses
The use of master courses and common rubrics raises questions about intellectual property rights, the relationship between disciplinarity and pedagogical best practices, and the appropriateness of mandating the use of course materials; all of these intersect with academic freedom in significant ways. This guidance paper discusses the appropriate and inappropriate approaches to these practices from an academic freedom perspective.

Professional Development and Faculty Training
As a condition of hire and ongoing employment, faculty are expected to invest in their continued professional development. As subject matter experts, they are best positioned to identify the best direction for their own growth. With very few exceptions, training and professional development should not be mandated. 

Syllabus Guidelines and Requirements
A course syllabus is “an agreement between the instructor and student” that details “course content and instructor expectations.” Syllabi are based upon and ultimately reflect the curriculum for a course and are protected under academic freedom. Some required syllabus elements cannot be shaped or changed by faculty members. Furthermore, it does not violate academic freedom to use a common course syllabus for multiple classes, provided that certain standards are met.