Faculty Senate Approves Statement Affirming Free Expression at UA
The Faculty Senate on Monday unanimously adopted a statement that affirms the existing right of free expression for UA students, faculty and staff.
The statement, presented by the Academic Personnel Policy Committee, is intended to be a proactive step to ensure freedom of expression on university campuses. There has been concern among some state lawmakers about "a perception that UA faculty/staff might be actively impeding free speech for selected groups," the committee stated in documents prepared for the meeting.
The committee also noted that the UA has a "yellow light" rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which suggests that the University's policies "restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression."
Daisy Pitkin, assistant professor in the Honors College and chair of the Academic Personnel and Policy Committee, said the approved statement "is pretty much in line with what we already do and promote and value at the UA."
President Robert C. Robbins, in his report to the senate following the vote, said he was "1,000 percent supportive" of the statement's adoption.
The statement presented to Faculty Senate members is based on the University of Chicago's Statement on Principles of Free Expression, which was adopted in 2015 and later dubbed the "Chicago statement," serving as the framework for similar statements adopted at more than 50 U.S. colleges and universities, including Arizona State University.
The UA's statement adopts the core principles of the Chicago version, and says the UA "guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn." Some limitations, however, are "necessary to the functioning of the University," such as those on speech that violates the law, is defamatory toward a specific person, constitutes a threat or harassment, or unjustifiably invades privacy.
The statement also makes clear that individual members of the University community, not the institution itself, would judge whether certain ideas are "offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed."
"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," the statement says.
In other business:
- Ronald Wilson, the UA's new Title IX director, made brief remarks. Wilson said he looked forward to opportunities to collaborate with UA units to ensure the UA is not only compliant with Title IX, but serves as the national standard.
- Jeffrey Goldberg, interim senior vice president of academic affairs and provost, said mandatory leadership training for department heads would be implemented in the near future. Also in progress is the development of programs around the UA's new Hispanic-Serving Institution designation under the direction of Marla Franco, the new assistant vice provost for HSI initiatives. Regarding the search for a vice provost for faculty affairs, Goldberg said the candidate pool has been narrowed to three finalists. They are Tannis Gibson, professor of music, Andrea Romero, professor of family studies and human development and director of the Frances McClelland Institute, and Chris Segrin, professor of communication and acting associate dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
- President Robert C. Robbins, said that he and other administrators are working to establish budget and timing priorities for the University's strategic plan. Robbins also gave updates on three key leadership searches – senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, senior vice president for research and innovation, and senior vice president and chief financial officer. Robbins said he hopes to be able to make appointments for all three positions by the end of the spring semester.
The Faculty Senate's next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 4.