Academic Freedom and the Public University Conference, University of Oregon, October 14, 2022


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Introduction: Assaults on public higher education have deep cultural and political roots in the United States. Yet the perils university faculty face today are especially acute, including sanctions from legislators and donors, social media harassment, violent threats and other forms of intimidation. Curricula and research specializations are subject to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism. In short, the contemporary political landscape has reshaped the contours of academic freedom at public universities. Galvanized by these new forces and phenomena, the University Oregon’s Office of the Provost (OtP) hosted an online conference devoted to Academic Freedom and the Public University on October 14, 2022. Building on the University’s public defense of academic freedom, we invited faculty and administrators from the PAC-12 (comprised of R1 public universities in the West) and other colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest to participate. This conference focused on external interference from politicians, civil society, and the media that constrain or impede the faculty exercise of its academic freedom. In addition to stimulating vigorous discussion, both within and across universities, this conference aimed to identify institutional strategies, policies, and practices that successfully promote, bolster, and protect the faculty’s academic freedom.

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