Why? Because new restrictions on free speech might apply to them.

Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed reports.

Requiring Civility

Push and pull between administrators and faculty unions during contract negotiations is to be expected. But some faculty members at the University of Oregon say administrators in their contract negotiations are attempting to gut a particularly sacred university policy: academic freedom.

Oregon’s existing policy calls free inquiry and free speech “the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge.” The belief that an opinion is “pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or ‘just plain wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression,” it says.

In the spring, Oregon’s Faculty Senate approved a new policy on academic freedom, a near-identical version of which the United Academics, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, soon adopted for negotiation purposes. Oregon faculty voted to unionize last year and they are working on their first contract. The Senate statement on academic freedom has yet to be finalized, pending its own negotiations with the administration.

The union’s proposed statement is similar to existing policy, calling free inquiry and free speech “essential components” of academic freedom. The statement is also more expansive, and includes language guaranteeing faculty the “right to engage in internal criticism, which encompasses the freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action, whether or not as a member of any agency of institutional governance.”