Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

The University of Arizona has a strong and enduring commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression, as articulated below.

Academic Freedom

Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Approved by the Faculty Senate as 

September 14, 2009, Academic freedom is one of the primary ideals upon which The University of Arizona was founded and continues to be a core value. The major premise of academic freedom is that open inquiry and expression by faculty and students is essential to the University’s mission. Academic freedom shall be understood to include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Academic freedom protects faculty from any and all arbitrary interferences with their ability to carry out their missions in research, creative activities, teaching, service and outreach.

  • Academic freedom is essential to the fundamental mission of discovering and advancing knowledge and disseminating it to students and the society at large.

  • Academic freedom enables faculty members to foster in their students a mature independence of mind, and this purpose cannot be achieved unless students and faculty are free within the laboratory, classroom, and elsewhere to express the widest range of viewpoints in accord with standards of scholarly inquiry.

  • Academic freedom extends to expressing opinions concerning matters of shared governance, leadership, or the functioning of the University and the units within.

  • An essential component of academic freedom is the right of faculty members to be free from any adverse action resulting in whole or in part from the exercise of freedom of speech, belief, or conscience in any venue, to the maximum extent consistent with the fulfillment of clearly defined teaching, creative activity, research, service or clinical obligations.

  • A core aspect of academic freedom is the right to due process sufficient to minimize the risk that adverse actions are taken, even in part, as a result of the faculty member’s exercise of academic freedom.

  • Academic freedom includes the right to criticize existing institutions (including leadership, professions, paradigms and orthodoxies).

Freedom of Expression

Academic Personnel Policy Committee

Approved by Faculty Senate, December 3, 2018, as 'Adoption of Chicago Statement of Freedom of Expression'

The University of Arizona has a long-standing commitment to free speech. The purpose of this letter is to affirm UA’s endorsement of the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (the Chicago Statement). The Statement is fully consistent with UA’s existing policies.

The University of Arizona is a public institution that is committed to free, robust and uninhibited sharing of ideas among all members of the University community. The University of Arizona values the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides the right to free speech.

Therefore, after consultation with the University of Arizona Faculty Senate, the University of Arizona is formally adopting the core principles of the Chicago Statement, with minor edits, as set forth below:

Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, the University fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the University community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University 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. The University may restrict expression 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 that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. 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 University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

In a word, the University’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 University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University 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 University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.

As a corollary to the University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University 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.

Without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university.