Fall faculty Workshop 2002
"ACADEMIC FREEDOM/ACADEMIC ORTHODOXY"
AUGUST 19-20, 2002
Once again, UMM faculty members have the opportunity to gather at picturesque Peter's Resort on the eastern shore of Lake Minnewaska. A scenic setting, comfortable accommodations and good food promote a collegial beginning to the new academic year. Returning faculty members have the opportunity to share their summer experiences, greet new additions to the faculty and welcome them into the UMM community. We do so while probing an issue or theme toward the end of strengthening our claim to be one of the nation's best public liberal arts colleges. The theme for this fall is Academic Freedom/Academic Orthodoxy.In keeping with its specific liberal arts mission but also its claim to be an academic community, the UMM faculty are committed to free and open expression of ideas. The reasons for this are perhaps most succinctly expressed in the American Association of University Professors 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure:
Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.
Threats to academic freedom, while varying in intensity, are ever present. The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, elevated our awareness of these threats; some felt patriotism intimidated critical inquiry and others felt that the academy itself stifled speech in support of the nation's interest. In the post-9.11 climate as well as before it, however, constraints of full and free expression of ideas are often more subtle. Orthodoxies exist among faculty and students reflecting habits of thinking or articles of faith. Efforts to build and maintain community, to pursue "the common good" can encourage an unthinking conformity to principles that violate the spirit of academic freedom. To be sure, issues of accuracy and responsibility set parameters on free expression, but the scope of those boundaries are often contested.The Faculty Development Committee invites UMM faculty to join in a stimulating exploration of the state of Academic Freedom at UMM. With assistance from our guest speaker and in a highly interactive manner, we will explore the following questions. How healthy is the climate for free and open expression on the UMM campus? What practices and policies have been most supportive of it? What practices and policies have been most constraining? As instructors, what can we do to avoid dogmas our own, those of our disciplines, those of the students? As participants in the shared governance of the campus, what can we do to encourage the climate of free expression and open debate?
Richard Zeller, Visiting Professor, College of Nursing, Kent State University, will facilitate the discussion. Professor Zeller began his professorial career at UMM [1969-71], while completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and went on to a distinguished academic career at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Bowling Green State University [BGSU]. His extensive publications and teaching fall in the areas of social statistics, research methods and social psychology. He also has served as a consultant on conflict resolution in the academic and corporate world. His assertion of the value of academic freedom for all perspectives recommended him to the Faculty Development Committee. While aware of the threats to academic freedom from beyond the campus walls, he has become increasingly concerned about the ways in which prevailing orthodoxies on campus restrain critical thinking. He retired from his tenured, full professor appointment at BGSU, he reports, "in protest because of the campus limitation of thought." The episode received coverage not only in the Ohio press but in the Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has proposed an approach to the topic that emphasizes interactive exploration of the tendencies toward orthodoxies, the particular issues at UMM that face restraint and the approaches that can best assure the cultivation of free expression and critical thinking.