Academic Freedom, Responsibility, Integrity, and Cooperation

Academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation are among the guiding principles for the mission of the University of Minnesota (Board of Regents Mission Statement, last amended Feb. 2008)

Mission of the UMN: Guiding Principles

In all of its activities, the University strives to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that:

  • embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation;
  • provides an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance;
  • assists individuals, institutions, and communities in responding to a continuously changing world;
  • is conscious of and responsive to the needs of the many communities it is committed to serving;
  • creates and supports partnerships within the University, with other educational systems and institutions, and with communities to achieve common goals; and

The Board of Regents Policy: Academic Freedom and Responsibility defines academic freedom as "the freedom, without institutional discipline or restraint, to discuss all relevant matters in the classroom, to explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, and to speak or write on matters of public concern as well as on matters related to professional duties and the functioning of the University." It further states that academic responsibility "implies the faithful performance of professional duties and obligations, the recognition of the demands of the scholarly enterprise, and the candor to make it clear that when one is speaking on matters of public interest, one is not speaking for the institution."

The University's Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court case Garcetti v. Ceballos and local controversy over the showing of the film Troubled Waters, released a White Paper in December 2011, which clarifies the nature and scope of academic freedom and responsibility at the University. In particular, it notes that the protections defined by the Regents policy "extend to all University employees who engage in scholarly work."

Interested parties may find the policy statements and reports of the American Association of University Professors informative, particularly the 1940 Statement on Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Freedom of Expression

"As an institution of learning and discovery, where our work often builds new understanding, it is imperative that we provide a place for diverse views and opinions. Not only does the U.S. Constitution require us to do so, but it is our tradition. It is a part of who we are. Protecting free speech has never been easy. Indeed, it can often feel as if there is too little, or too much, but hardly ever, just enough. But we cherish and guard it, and it has endured because it is one of our most important universal rights and one of the powerful tools we have to create change and build understanding.

I know that some views hurt individuals and communities and can lead to a sense of isolation and marginalization. I have deep empathy for those who are negatively impacted by the speech or actions of others. I want to assure you that I take issues of safety and belonging very seriously. The University condemns speech that promotes prejudice and discrimination. Though we honor the discourse, we do not always support what is said. I am strongly committed to creating inclusive and welcoming environments where everyone is respected, valued, and safe, has a strong sense of belonging, and can be their best selves." 

--President Joan T.A. Gabel

Official policies and codes of conduct that affirm and address academic freedom and free speech protections and responsibilities at the University: