After a Texas State University faculty member received threatening emails, members of the faculty senate have created an Academic Freedom Committee to combat academic issues on campus.
The committee is meant to serve as a branch of the faculty senate have jurisdiction over issues of academic freedom for faculty and students. The senate appointed a work group of four members to draft the committee’s purpose and mission specifically to Texas State which includes defining the issues on campus.
The concept was presented at the Jan. 25 Faculty Senate meeting by Dr. Vincent Luizzi, faculty senator and philosophy professor.
Luizzi offered the concept in a discussion regarding academic issues, along with fellow senate member Dr. Rebecca Bell-Metereau, English professor. After expressing her opinion on the Strutters’ participation in the inaugural parade, Bell-Metereau received threatening emails and twitter messages from students.
In response, Dr. Dana Garcia, faculty senator and biology professor, said, “This might be something for the Academic Freedom Committee to consider.”
Garcia said she could see the need for such a committee due to the nature of these issues, as they are not under the senate’s jurisdiction.
The concept also arose during the debate over the university’s involvement with the Scholars at Risk network. The senate has discussed endorsing the institution’s involvement with a program which helps foreign students seek education in the United States.
“The Academic Freedom Committee might be potentially charged with considering scholars and making recommendations,” said Dr. Shirley Ogletree, faculty senator and psychology professor.
The senate concluded it was clear the committee would be useful in providing answers on academic issues in the future.
“We’re just beginning to review mission statements of faculty senate Academic Freedom Committees at other universities,” Luizzi said. “I am collecting statements of purpose of Academic Freedom Committees on other campuses and at other universities that claim to be promoting academic freedom.”
Luizzi was appointed chair of the committee by the senate. He was also put in charge with leading the committee with the help of fellow senate and work group members Dr. Elizabeth Bishop, history associate professor, Dr. Scott Bowman, criminal justice associate professor, and Bell-Metereau.
This committee would join other universities across the state that have initiated Academic Freedom Committees including University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.
The committee at the University of Texas at Austin is comprised of members in charge of the study of issues involving academic freedom as well as advising on these issues. Texas A&M also has a committee dedicated to academic freedom with over 40 members. Stephen F. Austin University directs issues of academic freedom to their Professional Welfare committee specifically dealing with faculty and concerns.
“Some (Academic Freedom Committees) are concerned with detecting violations of or threats to academic freedom and some include mechanisms for enforcement,
At Texas State, the exact purpose of the committee is yet to be determined. The four members responsible for continuing its creation hope to see it resolve some concerns directed toward the Faculty Senate. Hopefully, the committee can provide more specialized answers and direction.