Jun 12, 2024  
2021 Faculty Handbook 
2021 Faculty Handbook [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Academic Freedom & Freedom of Expression

Academic Freedom

American College of Education supports and protects academic freedom through the free exchange and critique of ideas among all members of this community. Faculty members are entitled to freedom within teaching, scholarly research or publications, and other academic responsibilities. However, faculty must follow the set policies and procedures of academic freedom as outlined below.

When faculty members communicate as individuals, they should be free to fully express their ideas without censorship. However, affiliations with ACE impose certain responsibilities. As scholars and ACE faculty, they should remember that the public may judge the College by their expressions. Thus, faculty should always provide accurate information, exercise appropriate restraint, demonstrate professionalism, be respectful, and make every attempt to clarify that they are not speaking on ACE’s behalf.

Freedom of Expression

Because American College of Education (the “College”) is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the College community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom of expression are necessary to the functioning of the College, the College fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the College community “to discuss,” in the words of former College University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins, “any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the College community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the College to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the College greatly values civility, and although all members of the College community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. For example, the College may restrict expression, for example, that violates the law that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests or is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the College.

In addition, the College may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the College. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the College’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

The College’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the College community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the College community, not for the College as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the College community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the College’s educational mission.

As a corollary to the College’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the College community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the College community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, in our administrative offices and online, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, at various functions of the College such as commencement, and in all online environs, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the College has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.

Faculty Responsibilities to Academic Freedom

Faculty have an obligation to be respectful, demonstrate professionalism, have and express differing opinions, and provide honest and accurate instruction, as part of their academic freedom. Faculty will not experience retaliation from the institution by exercising their rights.

  1. Teaching-Faculty must help students to think critically, creatively, and independently. Facilitation consists of the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those which may be considered controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of any form of retaliation. Matters brought up in class should be related to the subject of courses, or otherwise, be educationally relevant.
  2. Scholarship-Faculty have the freedom to conduct research, produce creative endeavors, and publish scholarly work, limited only by the policies and procedures set by ACE.
  3. Policies and Practices-Faculty have the freedom to discuss any concerns, question, or critique any ACE policies, procedures, or practices. They may do so either as a member of the ACE community or as an individual.
  4. Public Engagements-Faculty have the freedom to participate in communities outside of the College which might be social, political, economic, cultural, or personal interests. Faculty members may identify themselves as members of the ACE community. However, they must make every attempt to clarify they are not speaking on ACE’s behalf.

Reasonable Limitations

Academic freedom can be exercised with a matter of reasonable limitations. Examples of limitations would include expression with students or in public which:

  1. Contradicts the ACE mission, policies, and procedures;
  2. Deliberately attacks ACE leaders or other staff; or
  3. Violates the code of conduct because the expression is dishonest, illegal, unprofessional, inappropriate, or disrespectful of others.

In addition, faculty members are responsible for, but not limited to, abiding by policies and procedures as defined by ACE, administrative regulations, and the employment contract. Abuses of the academic freedom policy including but not limited to, professional misbehavior, professional misconduct, or noncompliance may lead to adverse consequences involving Human Resources.