Pedagogy Market Research | Review #12


Academic Freedom Should Be Redefined: Point and Counterpoint

By Tonja M. Woods, W. Renee’ Acosta, Eunice P. Chung, Arthur G. Cox, George A. Garcia, Jamie Ridley Klucken, Marie Chisholm-Burns

Review Summary by Khushi Modani
BBA Student, PES University, Market Research Intern, Adaptive Instruction

I am Khushi Modani, a student pursuing BBA in PES University, Bengaluru. I have a keen interest in Human Resource Management and Marketing. In my free time, you can catch me reading a book, or binging on my favorite web-series. I am also passionate about theatre and writing, and was the editor for my school magazine. Currently, I am working for Adaptive Instruction as a Market Research Intern.

Summary – Academic Freedom Should Be Redefined: Point and Counterpoint


Academic freedom refers to the professoriate’s privilege to a free search for truth and knowledge and the right to impart the same to others, such as students, the academy, and the general public, unaffected by political or ideological pressure.

The Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom was given by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and was co-authored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU). It applies to all governmental entities and states that academic freedom has a clear benefit.  It is both an individual right and a collective responsibility.

The debate conducted at the Academic Leaders Fellowship Program (2014-15) was held on whether “Academic Freedom Should Be Redefined” since the AAUP statement of 1940 has been widely misunderstood. Two cohort teams with three members each debated for and against the topic statement.

Point: Case FOR the Redefinition of Academic Freedom

The purpose of the 1940 statement is still valid but key points need to be brought into focus and redefined to develop a more comprehensive and specific definition.

Some points to consider while redefining academic freedom are: 

  • It is not full freedom to do whatever you want. It carries responsibilities with it as well. Faculty members should understand that the scope of academic freedom is not unlimited and holds duties as well. There is a need for a redefinition to avoid misconduct through the ambiguity of the statement.
  • In professional degree programs such as Pharmacy, students are held to a higher standard that other degree programs may not require. Multiple instructors teaching the same course cannot deviate from its structure or violate policies in the name of academic freedom.
  • The economies of education have changed dramatically since 1940 i.e. technological advancement, social media, non-traditional students, migration, demand for higher ROI, etc.
  • There is an increasing ratio of non-tenured faculty members without an appropriate policy change. The 1940 statement doesn’t take into account part-time or adjunct faculty’s academic freedom.

The current definition of academic freedom is so broad and vague that it is subject to too many interpretations and applications.

Counterpoint: Case for NOT Redefining Academic Freedom

  • The 1940 statement has withstood the test of time and is accepted as the norm.
  •  Redefining may lead to more confusion; instead, the intended meaning should be articulated clearly and no inappropriate behaviors should be tolerated in the name of academic freedom.
  • It refers to three basic principles: freedom to research and publish, to teach, and freedom from censorship. These come down to ‘doing one’s job’.
  • Academic freedom has not protected faculty members in cases involving abandonment of job responsibilities, lack of accountability, or failure to follow institutional policy.
  • The fundamental concepts of academic freedom remain valid in every “modern” scenario that faculty members face today.
  • The AAUP statement tells faculty members ‘what to do’ but not ‘how to do it’, which should be instructed by the institution as per change in time.
  •  The 1970 interpretive comments on the statement have also furthered academic freedom to non-tenured faculty.

The 1940 statement of academic freedom has given it adaptability, strength, and validity over time.


The debate was held as the definition of academic freedom was widely misinterpreted. However, it was not clear if it should be ‘redefined’. After witnessing the debate, the audience agreed with and voted for the counterpoint.

Link to the publication:
Academic Freedom Should Be Redefined: Point and Counterpoint

Editorial Support, Adaptive Instruction: Megha Elza John