R-6: CLASSROOM ACADEMIC FREEDOM CONFERENCE AND MEDIATION

 

Senate Policy:  20-00, Resolution of Classroom Problems

Faculty membership carries with it the freedom to bring the breadth and depth of scholarship to the classroom in furtherance of teaching students to (as stated in University Policy HR 64, Academic Freedom, which is the basis of Senate Policy 20-00) "think for themselves" through exposure to appropriate materials and pedagogies. Courses may properly include controversial matters so long as faculty members are of "fair and judicial mind" and "set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators." Faculty membership also carries the obligation to refrain in the classroom from substituting indoctrination for scholarship. Academic freedom in the classroom applies to scholarship, but does not create a right to give voice to topics or opinions outside of appropriate academic subject matter or curricular objectives or that are irrelevant to a course or beyond the instructor's scholarly charge.

A student who believes that the instructor in a course in which she or he is currently enrolled has acted beyond the limits of academic freedom may seek a faculty conference and mediation in accordance with the following steps:

1. The student should make an appointment to discuss in person, by phone, or relying on another mutually agreeable medium, her or his concerns with the instructor. The student and instructor will try to eliminate misunderstandings in a manner in which each recognizes the value of the other's point of view and in which the goal is to understand the rationale and intended value--and the appropriateness or inappropriateness--of the classroom or teaching and learning event(s) giving rise to the student's concern.  

2. On the rare occasion in which a student is uncomfortable approaching a faculty member directly, or in which a student and instructor fail to resolve the student's concern through informal means, the student may request that the head of the academic program offering the course act as a mediator. The mediator should try to meet personally with the student, face to face, by phone, or in an otherwise mutually agreeable manner, to discuss the issue. At campuses without department, division, or school heads, the director of academic affairs or assistant or associate dean may fill this role. The mediator may bring the student and faculty member together, or may act as an intermediary without instigating an additional student/faculty conference. World Campus courses, which can involve students and faculty living far from each other, may utilize appropriate and reasonable substitutions for face-to-face discussions. Multiple forms of electronic communication now provide the means for personal contact that can meet the spirit of this process.

3. A student may initiate a final request to intercede to the campus chancellor or college dean to whom the instructor reports by filing a Classroom Freedom of Expression Mediation Form, which requires the student to provide specific details of the original classroom event(s) giving rise to his or her concern, and explaining why she or he believes the situation remains unresolved. The request may be made only after compliance with steps 1 and 2. The chancellor's office or dean's office will review the student's Classroom Academic Freedom concern. A determination will be made that is final as to whether further mediation between the student and instructor is appropriate. Whether or not the chancellor or dean believe continued mediation is appropriate, the chancellor or dean, or their representative, will meet with the student in person, by phone, or relying on another mutually agreeable medium, to discuss the final disposition of the concern.

Faculty and campus or college administrators should attempt to address student concerns whenever possible with face to face personal meetings, rather than through written communiqués, and to do so in an expedited manner that allows for fairness and prompt resolution, but without endangering the equity and due process necessary to all parties. In no instance may a faculty member take a student's request for a classroom academic freedom conference or mediation into consideration for purposes of grading.  

Approved: ACUE (7-6-06)
Approved: ACUE (2-4-10)


Senate Policy:  20-00, Resolution of Classroom Problems

 

 



The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. Please consult a Penn State academic adviser for more detailed information. Penn State is an affirmative action, equal opportunity university.