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Understanding Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom, covered under article III in the UFCT 1460's CBA, can be an elusive concept to understand. The case of University of Alaska professor, Rick Steiner, who lost a research grant due to his outspoken statements on environmental conservation, gets to the core principle of academic freedom: the freedom of faculty to pursue the "truth" in their fields without outside pressure, be it political or economic. He had received a $10,000 research grant from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that was revoked when he spoke openly against irresponsible actions of the oil industry in Alaska. NOAA pressured the University to take away the grant, and the University conceded. The key point is, private funding sources can ask for whatever they want, but it is up to the University to defend the academic freedom rights of its faculty, and the principle of academic freedom more generally, within its ivory towers. Otherwise, the production of knowledge in the university becomes tied to the whims of the corporate or political world, and the notion of the university as a space of free inquiry, including speech, dies.

Here is a link to an interview with Steiner on Democracy Now (incidentally, his faculty union filed a grievance on his behalf that is working its way through the system).


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