Academic freedom and intellectual freedom. What do these concepts mean and why are they important on a university campus? I have heard these concepts being discussed recently and wanted to make sure we all understand their meaning:

Academic freedom applies to teaching and research and “is the belief that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.” (Wikipedia)

The American Association of University Professors goes even further: Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning.

Intellectual freedom is near and dear to all libraries, and librarians defend this freedom every day. The American Library Association defines it “as the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

Why is intellectual freedom so important? Intellectual freedom is the basis for our democratic system. We expect our people to be self-governors. But to do so responsibly, our citizenry must be well-informed. Libraries provide the ideas and information, in a variety of formats, to allow people to inform themselves. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas.”

At Marylhurst and all institutions of higher education, these freedoms are held sacred.  These are the freedoms that allow our faculty to discuss controversial topics in class, for students to grapple with unpopular ideas and for the library to hold material that represents all points of views (even those we don’t necessarily agree with).

Here is an excerpt from the MU teaching philosophy: A Marylhurst University education emphasizes collaboration between faculty and students in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Students bring life experience and curiosity; faculty bring professional expertise and a love of teaching. Rigorous classes challenge students to reason deeply and learn broadly. Instructors integrate theory with practice, providing opportunities for intellectual engagement and professional development. They encourage students to seek out knowledge, to evaluate ideas, and to reflect with insight on their society and themselves.

Academic and intellectual freedom defined

One thought on “Academic and intellectual freedom defined

  • February 5, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Well said. Thank you!


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