Task force proposes statement on academic freedom

A select group of Johns Hopkins University faculty members and students tasked last year with developing language that articulates the university's philosophy and principles on academic freedom has submitted a recommended statement, which JHU President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert C. Lieberman shared recently in an email to the university community.

Over the past year, the 14-member Task Force on Academic Freedom has 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.

Daniels and Lieberman invited members of the university community to review the statement on the Office of the Provost website and provide feedback online or via email at http://academicfreedom@jhu.edu. After a review period, the statement will be sent to the board of trustees for approval.

"In our mandate to the task force, we observed that Johns Hopkins' commitment to academic freedom dates back to our founding, and that freedom of inquiry and expression is essential to the trailblazing education, research, and service that are the signatures of our university," Daniels and Lieberman wrote. "And yet it was striking that, unlike so many of our peers, we did not have a formal university statement on academic freedom, one that would give expression to our core values in this area and serve as a touchstone for our community in considering the often-challenging questions that academic freedom can raise.

"A statement of this sort would not seek to resolve in advance every dispute that might arise or offer an exhaustive analysis of the history of academic freedom," they wrote. "Rather, we anticipated that the task force would offer a forward-looking articulation of values to guide the university in the decades to come. We asked the task force to consult widely, consider the issue broadly, and look to the approaches of our peers, and then ultimately to provide to us its recommendation for a statement of principles."

The task force was 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.