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Johns Hopkins adopts statement on academic freedom principles, philosophy

A new statement that articulates Johns Hopkins University's philosophy and principles on academic freedom has been adopted by the university's board of trustees, JHU President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert C. Lieberman announced today in an email to the university community.

The statement was developed over many months by the 14-member Task Force on Academic Freedom, a select group of faculty members and students. That group—led by Joel Grossman, a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science, a member of the Academy at Johns Hopkins, and an expert in American politics and constitutional law—reviewed background materials on the topic of academic freedom; gathered feedback from faculty, staff, students, and alumni from every corner of the university; and met to deliberate the appropriate bounds of these principles.

The task force submitted a recommended statement in April. Daniels and Lieberman then sent the recommended statement to the university community for reactions and comments, and the final version announced today reflects many of the comments they received.

"We have wrestled with difficult issues relating to academic freedom in the past and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future," Daniels and Lieberman wrote in today's message. "Still, we believe that an explicit endorsement and adoption of these principles represents an important milestone for Johns Hopkins. As America's first research university, we are situated at the intersection of intellectual exploration, academic debate, and groundbreaking discoveries in the sciences, the humanities, the professional disciplines, and the arts. In all these endeavors, academic freedom serves as our lodestar."

The full text of today's email announcement is as follows:

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff:

Academic freedom fuels Johns Hopkins' greatest discoveries and emboldens our most illuminating debates. And yet, until now, our university has never had an official statement of principles elucidating the essential role that academic freedom plays in our community.

Today, we are excited to announce that the university's board of trustees has adopted a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom that will stand as Johns Hopkins' public recognition of the singular importance of academic freedom to our mission and our work. We welcome you to read the final statement.

The statement was developed through an extensive consultative process that unfolded over the past many months. We convened a task force of faculty and students representing a broad cross section of our community and charged it with drafting an articulation of principles to guide the university in the decades to come.

The task force, chaired by Professor of Political Science Emeritus and Academy Professor Joel Grossman, met at length, solicited and received input from across the community, and submitted to us their recommended statement. This spring, we circulated that draft to the university community and asked for your thoughts. We received more than a hundred comments, and the provost visited faculty advisory boards in each of our schools to discuss the draft and receive further feedback. We made additional changes to the draft in response to many of these comments, resulting in the final statement that is being distributed today.

We have wrestled with difficult issues relating to academic freedom in the past and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. Still, we believe that an explicit endorsement and adoption of these principles represents an important milestone for Johns Hopkins. As America's first research university, we are situated at the intersection of intellectual exploration, academic debate, and groundbreaking discoveries in the sciences, the humanities, the professional disciplines, and the arts.

In all these endeavors, academic freedom serves as our lodestar. We thank Professor Grossman, the task force, and the entire community for their contributions to the university and their role in nurturing this foundational value.

Sincerely,

Ronald J. Daniels
President

Robert C. Lieberman
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs