The UW System’s Board of Regents has approved a resolution aimed renewing a commitment to free speech and academic freedom on its campuses.
While Regent President Regina Millner said on Friday that the policy was not the result of any specific incident on a UW campus, its adoption does follow controversies in other states surrounding academic freedom in classrooms and whether university officials may try to silence unpopular views. “Wisconsin has always been a leader in these concepts,” she said “so reaffirming academic freedom, and affirming the freedom of expression, is in keeping with our commitment to the important fearless sifting and winnowing to find the truth.”
Millner also noted that changes in tenure protections, included in the state budget adopted earlier this year, have resulted in some uneasiness among faculty members. “We have to remind them that our commitment is unfettered. That we have a full commitment to academic freedom,” she said.
System President Ray Cross stressed the importance of the principles behind the policy, and said “periodically, we all need to be reminded of the foundational policies on which this university was built.”
Some members of the board did raise concerns about moving forward with adopting the policy. Regent Charles Pruitt warned the board’s actions could have unintended consequences, and urged them to take more time to vet the resolution. Regent Jose Vasquez also referred to it as a solution in search of a problem, since academic freedom on campuses is already “quite clear” in his mind.
The policy was adopted on a 16-2 vote.