Committee to define Academic Freedom

While a universal definition of academic freedom may vary from person to person, the University’s leading faculty and staff members are trying to unite those specific views.

Thomas Mascaro, associate professor of communication studies, spoke on behalf of the Provost’s Task Force on Academic Freedom at yesterday’s faculty senate meeting.

The topic was first brought up in a meeting during spring 2005, with the committee eventually being established in June 2005.

Mascaro understands the different definitions people may have about academic freedom, but sees true freedom in the classroom as a liberating experience for all involved.

“It is truly a shared experience between teachers and students. It includes freedom of a professor’s shared research and offered teaching style, and challenges students to ideas that are new and sometimes uncomfortable to them,” he said. “Students then have the opportunity to join the teacher in conversation that opens up his or her mind in a fresh light.”

A complete document outlining academic freedom for faculty senate is in the works, although the final completion date is still unknown.

The task force committee’s next steps are to determine what form the document will take, and also the avenues of distribution.

The statement includes an overall definition of academic freedom, as well as its basic principles and implementations.

Laura Sanchez, assistant professor of sociology, has a similar definition of academic freedom.

“It is creating an opportunity for faculty and students to feel free to exchange ideas, and to create an environment that feels safe to explore and challenge ideas,” Sanchez said.

Mascaro also emphasizes the importance of academic freedom. If it is limited in any way, not only do universities suffer, but so does the rest of society.

In addition to academic freedom, Dance Marathon was also presented at yesterday’s meeting. This 32-hour marathon will take place March 25-26, with benefits going to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Guest speaker Emily Sutherland, senior, encouraged faculty members and graduate students to participate in some of the upcoming activities, created to raise money for the event.

Activities will include a mini-marathon held at the Student Union, a 5k run, and eating at the McDonald’s on Wooster Street every other Tuesday. Proceeds for that day will be donated to the Dance Marathon committee.

Also in the meeting, President Sidney Ribeau addressed his participation in funding for higher education, and the merging of the University of Toledo and the Medical University of Ohio.