Skip to Content

Academic Freedom Committee

Statement on Academic Freedom

Historically, tenure and academic freedom have gone hand in hand, with tenure being a primary means of insuring academic freedom. Tenure is integral to the purpose of higher education, providing faculty the protection and freedom to engage in research, and teach or speak on matters related to their expertise in order to help advance our knowledge on important matters, regardless of how controversial these matters might be at any given time to people across the political or ideological spectrum.  The restriction or weakening of tenure at Texas universities would greatly diminish our ability to recruit and retain faculty.

Upon the recommendation of its Academic Freedom Committee, the Texas State University Faculty Senate opposes, in the strongest terms, any effort to weaken or eliminate the tenure status of faculty. Furthermore, the Faculty Senate rejects any attempts by bodies external to the faculty to restrict or dictate university curriculum on any matter (regardless of tenure status), including matters related to racial and social justice, and will stand firm against encroachment on faculty authority as defined in our Faculty Handbook and university policies.

"Academic freedom is freedom from duress or sanction aimed at suppressing the intellectual independence, free investigation, and unfettered communication by the academic community -- faculty, librarians, students, and guests." (Statement on Academic Freedom, UCLA)

Academic Freedom is fundamental to a university and all faculty have a compelling interest in its preservation, as it is vital to them as well as to university librarians, students, and guests. As such, the Faculty Senate (FS) and its Academic Freedom Committee (AFC) assume joint responsibility for ensuring that it prevails. AFC may call upon the Senate to take up matters for action and the Senate may refer matters to the AFC for consideration.

The FS and the AFC will vigilantly engage in the following measures:

  • promoting an understanding of academic freedom by encouraging and sponsoring ongoing events and activities to convey its significance and establish it as a guiding core value of university culture;
  • identifying threats to, or restrictions on, academic freedom and make concerns known whenever there is convincing evidence to warrant attention;
  • addressing challenges where possible and refer them to other entities for assistance as necessary;
  • assisting with ensuring academic freedom in the international arena by networking with such organizations as Scholars at Risk, which seeks opportunities for oppressed faculty, such as gaining temporary employment at Texas State or receiving invitations to speak here; and
  • pursuing funding for the activities noted above.

Members of the AFC shall include seven members, including at least one who is:

  • a faculty senator,
  • a tenured faculty member,
  • a tenure-track faculty member,
  • a fulltime lecturer,
  • a librarian, and
  • a member of the Graduate House.

The Chicago Statement refers to the free speech policy statement produced by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. In July of 2014, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Eric D. Isaacs tasked the Committee with “articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.” The Committee, which was chaired by esteemed University of Chicago Law School professor Geoffrey Stone, released the report in January of 2015.

Faculty bodies, administrations, and institutional governing boards have officially endorsed the Chicago Statement at over fifty-five institutions including Princeton University, Purdue University, American University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among others.

The Texas State faculty senate endorses the Chicago statement and adds its condemnation of targeted harassment and intimidation of faculty members that undermine academic freedom.

In several recent high profile cases documented by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), faculty members have experienced violations of their right to due process that are in conflict with the violating institutions’ own policies and procedures as well as principles outlined by the AAUP. The manner and circumstance of their dismissal raise serious questions about the respect for due process by their institutions. We fully support faculty members affected by these incidents.

The Texas State University Faculty Senate affirms that shared governance, academic freedom, and high standards for professional excellence are the hallmarks of higher education. The well-being and strength of a university and a democratic society depend on free inquiry and expression. Academic freedom without undue restraint is the professional right of faculty members and is an indispensable condition for faculty to carry out their responsibilities of teaching, research and creative work, and service to the institution and the community. Academic freedom further protects faculty members when they participate in the governance of their institutions or speak out on matters of educational policy, particularly when opposing the views of their administrators. The right of due process is an integral component of these principles.

We fully support the AAUP’s statements concerning academic freedom and shared governance, which are linked below:

2023 - 2024 Members

College Academic Freedom Committee Title, Department Term Exp Chair Email
Education Stacey Bender Senior Lecturer, Health and Human Performance (Faculty Senator) 2025
Education Cheryl Fulton Associate Professor, CLAS 2026
Ombudsperson Colleen Myles Professor Geography 2025
Ombudsperson Todd Jewell Finance & Economics 2025
Liberal Arts Nathan Pino Professor, Sociology (Tenured Faculty) 2025 Chair
Liberal Arts Steve Wilson Professor, English ex officio
Science and Engineering Lucas Rusnak Associate Professor, Mathematics 2025
Fine Arts and Communication Paul Villagran Assistant Professor of Practice, Journalism and Mass Communication (FT NLF) 2025
Library Wendy Thompson Librarian, Alkek Library (Library) 2026
Graduate Elizabeth Wrightsman (Grad House) 2024