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B12   Policy on Academic Freedom

Effective liberal learning is dependent upon an environment of free inquiry in which human knowledge, achievements, culture, and even aspirations can be subjected to searching scrutiny.  Hope College, on the premise that only God possesses the undivided truth and that all human apprehensions and expressions of truth are partial and relative, affirms the right, in an education that is both Christian and liberal, to criticize and construct without restraint within the canons of scholarship and of the Judeo‑Christian ethic.  It denies that the popularity of an idea affirms its truth and that an idea which is unpopular is for that reason suspect.  It claims for its students and faculty the right to criticize, examine, hold, express, controvert, and create within that tradition of learning which is both Christian and liberal.

In general support of these beliefs Hope College entitles the members of its faculty to academic freedom as defined in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure formulated by the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors, as follows:

The teacher is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

The teacher is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject, but should be careful not to introduce controversial matter which has no relation to the subject.

The college teacher is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an educational institution.  When speaking or writing as a citizen, s/he should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but his/her special position in the community imposes special obligations.  As a person of learning and an educational officer, s/he should remember that the public may judge the profession and the institution by his/her utterances.  Hence, s/he should at all times be accurate, exercise appropriate restraint, show respect for the opinions of others, and make every effort to indicate that s/he is not an institutional spokesperson.

Since immunity from undue outside interference implies a capacity for self-regulation and self-renewal, it is important that these additional qualifications and limitations be understood and accepted:

  1. There should be freedom to invite to the campus representatives of points of view which are important to an informed understanding of the conflict of ideas in our own time.

  2. Every college has limits to its expertise and resources, and the right should be reserved to confine its attention and efforts to the issues and areas where its contribution can be the most significant.

  3. In the examination of a highly controversial issue or in the presenting of a highly controversial speaker, the President should have the right to determine the nature of the presentation (public lecture, debate, nonpublic classroom presentation, etc.).

  4. The college should not be assumed to endorse the beliefs or statements of the speakers it presents nor the private expressions of opinion of its faculty members.  The college may disassociate itself from any such statements of points of view and may publicly regret and deplore such statements.

  5. Faculty members may not speak for the college on their own authority.  Only the President or persons designated by the President may issue public statements for the institution.

  6. Within the context of its mission, the college should preserve neutrality, for the promotion of liberal learning and for the sake of public confidence.

  7. The principle of academic freedom does not justify any action threatening or causing destruction of property, injury to the personal or intellectual rights of others, including the disruption of the educational program or the free flow of traffic on the campus, or the unauthorized use of sound amplification equipment on the campus.  It also does not justify plagiarism, slander, libel, or incitement to force or violence.  Freedom of advocacy and action does not entail a right to violate the regulations of the college or the public laws with impunity.

  8. Since Hope College buildings are not public buildings, the presence of outside agencies and organizations for the purpose of recruitment, espousal of a cause, or noncollege purpose is at the explicit invitation of the college, its faculty, administration, or officially recognized student organization.  The college does not endorse or support the positions of these guests, but should be open to any recognized agency that has received an invitation from one of the above college sources.

  9. Public events making use of college facilities, unless sponsored by the academic unit of the campus related to the field of knowledge of the event, must have administrative approval.