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UMM Fall Faculty Retreat, 2002
Questionnaire on Academic Freedom/Academic Orthodoxy

1. How concerned are you about constraints upon freedom of though at UMM emerging from off campus?

a. Very concerned ( 2 ) 7%
b. Somewhat concerned (10 ) 37%
c. Not very concerned ( 9 ) 34%
d. Not at all concerned ( 2 ) 7%
Unanswered ( 4 ) 15%


2. If you are concerned about constraints upon freedom of though at UMM emerging from off campus, please indicate what you are concerned about and what you believe should be done to address this concern:

a)

  • I have heard that student groups and faculty have been asked to "tone down" events and agendas that might upset more conservative elements in the town. The fact that the students running the Arbor Day celebration were asked by members of the administration not to mention during the event the apparently explosive ideas of "veganism" and "homosexuality" is disturbing (and bizarre).

  • I think the Homecoming Queen issue refocused the community and alumni concerns about the direction of UMM campus.

b)

  • It's any old story of administrative pressure to avoid political embarrassment or some other disadvantage. I will have a choice story of such pressure to share with the group-- pressure emanating from high levels of central UM administration.

    The Homeland Security Act concerns me. It will impose least tactic limits on freedom of thought.

    The 9/11 ramifications on faculty/citizens who speak openly about political issues, strong unified policy statements from National organizations (es AAUP) needed to counteract attacks on our civil liberties by our gov't.

    Current administration in Washington (lobbing?) Ideological differences between UMM - more outreach - forums?

    Tendency to expect everyone to conform to prevailing ideas in Morris. There may be need to carry out Diversity Awareness programs

    I can see two potential constraints upon freedom of thought from outside of UMM, although I don’t think either is very likely to provide constraints. The first is the local community, which is very conservative and seems to have a paternalistic vision for UMM. For example, when a gay man was elected homecoming queen last fall, many towns people expressed dismay that someone from the University did not step in to prevent this from happening. In this case university officials respected the students’ right to make their own choices (and suffer the consequences of them - anger among community members resulted in a decrease in donations to the University), but I can imagine situations where sensitivity to views of community groups and members results in a sort of internal constraint motivated by fiscal concerns. Recently, when a speaker on veganism at the local high school created an uproar because Morris community members did not want their children exposed to such "counter cultural" ideas, some people took care to keep out of the newspaper the fact that the speakers was a UMM student, because the group who brought this issue to the attention of the school board was the Cattleman’s Association, a donor to the school.

        A second potential source of constrain is the federal government. There is an inherent tension between freedom and security. Often freedom has to be sacrificed in order to provide security. However, I am concerned with the extent to which the current administration is willing to sacrifice freedom in order to provide security. Last September many people were denied physical freedom for over a week without legal representation on little evidence because some people thought that there was some chance they might be a threat to national security. At a university in North Carolina students and alumni called for internal constraints on the freedom of thought of professors who protested the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. They wanted not only for the professors not to organize protests, but for the university administration to fire them. No such thing was done, but given a U.S. president who makes claims along the lines of "anyone who does not support my plans supports evil - terrorism," one could imagine potential threats to the expression of ideas critical of war in Afghanistan or against Iraq. This seems unlikely, however. For while the American ideal of freedom seems to be less valued lately in the face of concerns for security, it is still valued.
    I am concerned about right-wing groups trying to eradicate what they characterize as "liberal bias" in the media and in academia. It seems to me that a "liberal idea" is often anything that questions the status quo.
        I am concerned about the anti-intellectualism that seems to pervade much of society today. Take Jesse Ventura's general approach, for example.
        I am also concerned about the attitude recently expressed here in Morris about what is appropriate for high school students to hear in the classroom. At least one comment aired at the school board meeting suggested that controversial subjects have
    no place in the classroom. I would certainly hate for that attitude to work its way up to higher ed.

    It seems to me that there is general and increasing tendency in this state (start with the governor) and in this country (the example is being set from the very top) for political authorities to avoid entering into debates or discussions of just about anything. In my judgment there certainly is a lack of critical thinking on more than one issue -- my increasing sense is that a lot of people are quite happy with this trend -- I personally find it repugnant and frightening.

  • The Homecoming Queen issues during the 2001/02 school year is an example of what concerns me "from off campus."

c)

  • Flag waving, jingoism, and false patriotism among local conservatives could pressure campus

    Some people in the community and among UMM's Constituencies believe UMM should not permit a wide and diverse range of opinions. The Administration is doing well in resisting this pressure.

    Although I can see some segments of the community being unhappy with some of the decisions made on campus (as happened with the recent homecoming queen), and I can imagine some people wanting to stifle certain types of research or discussion, as far as I can tell, the administration and faculty at UMM are pretty committed to our liberal arts mission, including open discussion, and I'm not too concerned about them allowing community unhappiness to stifle freedom of thought. All they've tried to do thus far is put as good and diplomatic a PR face on things as possible to the wider world, which is OK.

    I am concerned by the pressures for patriotism and conformity that come fueled especially by Sept. 11. The administration and faculty must stand firm not only against overt efforts to constrain our discourse but also against subtle self-censorship that can inappropriately constrain our thinking. I think that we are doing this fairly well.
  •  

d)
Unanswered ( 11 ) 42%

  • State legislature could become active or Governor could become active in investigations, etc., as during the Vietnam War. Administration must take a firm defensive stand if attacked.

3. How concerned are you about constraints upon freedom of though at UMM emerging from on campus?

a. Very concerned ( 2 ) 7%
b. Somewhat concerned ( 6 ) 22%
c. Not very concerned ( 10 ) 37%
d. Not at all concerned ( 5 ) 19%
Unanswered ( 4 ) 15%
  • Can folks without tenure answer this question anon? Those who silence us/who we fear are often those with powers over us. I can honestly say my research interests and teaching concerns have been belittled at times, and I have been told to "shut up!!" at meetings where I spoke my mind.

4. If you are concerned about constraints upon freedom of thought at UMM emerging from on campus, please indicate what you are concerned about and what you believe should be done to address this concern: a)

  • I was removed from the First Year Seminar faculty for refusing to use a specified text. In my opinion, the text was too politically correct. In a course subtitled Human Diversity, a variety of political perspectives should be possible and encouraged.

  • (see my response to #1 (a) ) I understand that the university has to be concerned with public relations, but I think in doing so we can risk silencing legitimate academic and civic issues and pursuits.

b)

  • Concerns are interpersonal rather than institutional.

    The UR & facpa would indicate that there is some polarization of thinking on campus, but both seem to be an alternative to expressing issues. Without resolving them, we create self-censorship.

    Because students have such a prominent voice in UMM affairs, danger of faculty's views being misconstrued or suppressed. Faculty must feel that their voices in it be heard in disputes or controversy.

    My response is along the same lines as above, though I'm somewhat less concerned about this from internal than from external sources

    I see significantly less encouragement for critical discussion of campus issues in the past year; it may not be deliberate but I get the very strong feeling that those in command are simply not as willing to listen, and to hear, as in the past. It is not that anyone actively restrains freedom of expression but I certainly don't feel that it is encouraged.

  • My impression is tha t the UMM faculty is overwhelmingly left of center politically. Although there is no shortage of outspoken liberals here, I have never heard a UMM faculty member make a statement that could even remotely be characterized as politically conservative, and I am not aware of any faculty member who considers him/herself to be conservative. This is an inherently unhealthy situation for a campus that places a high value on diversity. I would hope that a conservative faculty member would be tolerated and respected here, but unfortunately I have as yet seen no evidence, either affirmative or negative, that this is the case.

c)

  • Some Division Chairs and senior faculty are not very tolerant of differing opinions by younger colleagues.

    Occasionally I've heard people express opinions in such a way (e.g., about the evils of globalization) that seems to presuppose that everybody present will naturally agree with it. It's almost as if (sometimes) people don't think that there might possibly be anybody conservative present. Although not at all an effort to stifle thought, this presupposed climate of thought sometimes feels a bit odd.

    The impact of students on the promotion and tenure process. - Not sure what needs to be done.

    I am concerned that we do not always give each other and especially our newer colleagues strong encouragement to pursue their own thinking and arguments. This can come from complacency about how we do things or inertia. Another area of concern is that each discipline can have an orthodoxy that resists new ideas. In our teaching, we must always struggle against having our answers appear to be final and toward encouraging a questioning, a critical inquiry, among our students. On the other hand, we must not let a concern about student evaluations limit our expressions of controversial ideas.

  • Given the respect for the dignity and value of human beings which is actively practiced at UMM, and the care given to have all voices heard and represented, I am happy to be able to teach at UMM and have very little concern about threats to freedom of thought from on campus.

d)
Unanswered ( 14 ) 52 %

5. What is your vision of an ideal academy? What are the most important threats to this vision?

  • In an ideal academy, each member of the community would be able to develop to the extent that their talents allow, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or any demographic categorization. The politically correct nature of academia constrains some individuals due to their demographic categorization.

    Free and open exchange of ideas. Confusion of opinion with reality and intolerance.

    Tolerance for who we are, less sensitivity, joy!

    A place where a consistent effort is made to prevent learning and research from being dictated by economics. Pushing the use of information technology in the classroom without thinking critically about its pedagogical benefits (0r lack of benefits) might be one threat we're facing right now -- especially it this trend seems to be "pushed" because UMM needs to justify grants or requests for grants. Dismantling the tenure system might be another threat.

    The ideal academy is one in which active professional seekers of knowledge (the faculty, who are ideally scholars/researchers) nurture and engage well-motivated and appropriately trained younger seekers of knowledge (students) as junior partners in the search for knowledge. The search is directed only by the curiosity and values of pedagogy is a minor concern, motivating students is irrelevant because they are already motivated (and if unmotivated, do not belong there), and external influence arising from desires for political, pecuniary, or personal advantage are simply taboo. The only requirement of the seekers is that they perform their functions with diligence, integrity, and competence.

    I teach here because UMM is an ideal academy. But consistent lacks of resources threaten us

    The ideal honors diversity and the democratic process. The threat is an emerging political conservatism that puts little faith in the academic life.

    One which supports its faculty so that they can do their best work. Support includes time and resources, including financial resources (SE & E much more important than salary, they both are important.

    (a)stimulating, open-minded, experimenting (b) lack of resources

    One where all voices are given equal measure.

    A civil community of seekers of truth.

    An ideal academy should enable faculty to teach freely without fear for their promotion and tenure.

    In brief, it is a community of open inquiry; one where we pursue important ideas and respectfully disagree on many points; one where faculty and faculty and students collaborate in constructive and challenging conversations. It is a community engaged in exploring answers to the most important questions for our selves, our society and the world.

    Intolerance would be my perception of the greatest threat to an ideal academy, which I would define as a growing, evolving process stabilized by ties to traditional thought, which ties would also be a perpetual process of evolution and growth.

    Obviously freedom of inquiry and exchange of ideas are in an ideal academy; the threats to this are fears and lack of information (so a vicious circle).

    The ideal academy for me is a place where students learn critical thinking skills and use them in order to examine their own ideals and engage with others discussing, analyzing and evaluating the views in order to develop a set of beliefs that they can not only accept, but defend. The most important threats to this vision come from the students, who1) may be fearful that evaluation is a danger to maintaining previously unexamined beliefs or 2) have an instrumentalist view of education and are concerned with getting a good grade in order to get a good job rather than valuing education and the exchange of ideas as a way to promote his human flourishing in a broader sense.

    A place where there is lively debate about all sorts of issues.
        I think the most important threat is student apathy. I sometimes get the feeling that the majority of students don't think they need to be informed about much of anything -- that their little myopic world is just fine. In other cases, students are just plain unwilling to listen to alternative points of view. A good example would be some students' attitudes toward the subject of evolution. Some might as well just say out loud, "You can't make me learn about this. My pastor said it is wrong." For them, that's pretty much the end of the story. These sorts of attitudes don't lead to much learning, and they certainly do not make the environment of the "academy" very ideal.

    Vision of an ideal academy - Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found." (taken from a report of the Board of Regents in 1894). A threat would be supplanting the art of dialogue (i.e., the art of holding more than one perspective at a time as valid) with the art of debate.

    A community in which freedom of expression, and thought, are ACTIVELY encouraged and supported; a community in which all the voices are encouraged and heard; a community in which there is an active interest in seeking out and listening to other voices; a community in which all members feel they are valued and in which everyone sense that they are partners in leading the community' into the future

    My ideal of the academy is a place where diverse ideas can be shared, debated, and challenged in a respectful environment, and where people with differing viewpoints can carefully listen to each other and consider the possibility that other viewpoints may also have some validity. This ideal is threatened when a homogenous environment exists such that the accepted views of the 99% majority are never challenged openly.

    What we have at UMM. Threats are from Governments: local, state, county & federal.

  • A) A place to openly look at and research all sides of everything. B) narrow opinions


    Unanswered (4) 15 %


6. Years at UMM: 0-2 ( 8 ) 30% 3-6 ( 4 ) 15% 7-11 ( 5 ) 18% 12 plus ( 8 ) 33% Unanswered (1) 4%
7. I expect to attend the retreat yes ( 18 ) 67% no ( 7 ) 26% Undecided ( 2 ) 7%