February 22, 2018


SUBJECT:    Academic Freedom at UC San Diego

As many of you know, a public petition was initiated several weeks ago with the purpose of cancelling a current course on the films of Woody Allen, a staple elective in the Theatre and Dance Department. This, of course, raises serious issues concerning academic freedom, utterly independent of any specifics pertaining to allegations about Woody Allen. It also reveals a thorough misunderstanding of the central role that academic freedom has in University educational culture. The Senate Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) has reviewed this situation.

Their conclusion is twofold:

“First, we recognize that the University is responsible for vigilantly maintaining and promoting the First Amendment guarantee of free expression of ideas and opinions on campus and for encouraging critical, deliberative and informed debate on controversial issues. This responsibility is manifested both in our valuing and respecting the right of students to express their deeply held views, and our valuing and respecting the right of our faculty, in accordance with fundamental principles of academic freedom, to choose what they teach.

Second, we conclude that cancelling or removing this or any other course for the reason that it contains the study of controversial material, or even material widely regarded as morally problematic, would undermine both the value of free inquiry and the associated rights of faculty to engage in such inquiry by choosing their course content. These rights are set out in the Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure [ ee do m - a n d - t e n ure]

and include the right of faculty to decide what to teach in the classroom, unimpeded by administrative, commercial, governmental or other pressures.”

CAF’s general statement reaffirming the principles of academic freedom can be found here 2 -2018.pdf

We submit, consequently, that the Senate supports the right to the continued teaching of this course now and in the future. As importantly, the Senate supports and will vigorously maintain the right of all faculty to participate in the principles of academic freedom: these advance and preserve the University as a singular institution for the free exchange of ideas and debate that cannot and should not be diminished by forces that seek to restrict and canalize course content in favored directions.

Farrell Ackerman, Chair
San Diego Division of the Academic Senate

Robert Horwitz, Vice Chair
San Diego Division of the Academic Senate