UO president signs far-reaching academic freedom policy

May 28, 2014 - 3:30pm

President Michael Gottfredson has added his signature to a new academic freedom policy for the University of Oregon, which he said now has one of the strongest such policies in the country.

The action followed a year of discussions and multiple policy drafts exchanged between the president’s office and the University Senate. The new policy includes language affirming that principles of academic freedom extend to speech concerning university policies, a modification the president said “ensures that academic freedom at the UO will not be narrowed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos.”

In that 2006 case, the court ruled that First Amendment protections do not extend to the speech of employees in the course of their professional duties. The UO’s new policy provides that “members of the university community have freedom to address, question or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.”

In signing the policy, the president praised the UO’s “long and exceptional history of strong protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech,” adding that “the UO has consistently been on the right side of this issue, and fierce protection of these freedoms is part of our culture. This is something to be proud of.”

The new policy joins several existing policies that protect academic freedom and freedom of speech at the university, including the Oregon Academic Rule that covers academic freedom for all of Oregon’s universities, Article 5 of the UO United Academics Collective Bargaining Agreement, the UO’s policy on Freedom and Inquiry and Free Speech and the UO’s Community Standards Affirmation.