Statement of the Faculty of Arts and Science on
Academic Freedom, Academic Obligations,
and Academic Governance
Freedom of research, speech, and association
The missions of Columbia University are scholarship, education, and public service: the discovery, transmission, and application of knowledge and understanding. These activities can thrive only in an atmosphere of free expression and open inquiry by faculty and students alike. To advance these basic missions, the University recognizes the freedom of its faculty in discussing their subjects in the classroom, and their freedom in research and in the publication of its results. The University also recognizes its fundamental responsibility to maintain the conditions under which these freedoms can be exercised.
Students and faculty have the right to express themselves fully in their private or civic capacities, on or off campus, and will not be penalized by the University for their associations or expressions of opinion.
Expression of views in teaching
Education, by its very nature, is challenging to the student. A good teacher offers the student not only new facts, but new perspectives, new questions, new modes of inquiry, and new ways of understanding. In so doing, teachers may expose students to scholarly material or ideas that they find unpleasant or unwelcome. Columbia promotes no orthodoxy and opposes indoctrination. It is committed to a spirit of investigation and the belief that learning is advanced through an open exchange of views.
Freedom of expression in teaching imposes on faculty a correlative obligation to meet scholarly standards in presenting material and evaluating student work. Teachers as well as students must make every effort to maintain an atmosphere of civility in the classroom and must show respect for the right of others to hold opinions differing from their own.
The University’s standards of conduct for faculty in teaching are set forth in the Code of Academic Freedom and the Faculty Handbook (Chapter 7 and Appendix E). Students who feel they have been subjected to behavior that violates these standards have a right to pursue their grievances within the University through established grievance procedures.
Scholarship has no ultimate authority and no fixed consensus, only the judgment of the community of scholars, whose thinking evolves to accommodate new developments, ideas, and discoveries. The University conducts periodic reviews of each of its academic programs, seeking the counsel of outside scholars, to ensure that its teaching and research remain current and of the highest quality.
Decisions in academic matters – from an instructor's evaluation of student competence to a department's evaluation of faculty for hiring and promotion, a school's approval of courses and curricula, or a university review of departments – will be made, using the relevant scholarly standards, by the faculty and academic officers of the University through established customs and procedures of self-governance. Such decisions are, by University statute, subject to review and approval by the trustees, whose customary deference to faculty in academic matters has been essential to the University's success.
Adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences May 8, 2006