In response to political and social tensions that threaten the open exchange of ideas on academic campuses, the Academy convened a group of Fellows to explore ways the Academy can advocate for and defend academic freedom.
This project focused on calls for intellectual diversity and the challenges such demands pose to traditional notions of academic freedom. Legislation has been proposed in Congress, and in at least 24 states, that seeks to promote “intellectual diversity” by requiring colleges and universities to maintain a balance between faculty who are politically conservative and politically liberal.
In 2006, the Academy convened a small study group of scholars and administrators to: (1) gather and analyze various reports and background studies on “intellectual diversity”; and (2) draft and solicit comments from the higher education community on a statement that reaffirms the basic principles of academic freedom. The study group drafted a Statement on Academic Freedom, which holds that faculty members should be judged on the professional merit of their work and not on their political affiliation or outlook.
The study group anticipated that adoption of the statement by academic institutions, professional associations, and learned societies would help to counter legislative initiatives that threaten to undermine academic freedom on campus. It also hoped that the statement would support leaders in higher education who are willing to speak out to their boards, faculty, students and alumni when academic freedom is threatened.