Academic Freedom

Simmons University is committed to the academic freedom of its community members: students, staff, faculty, and administration. As reflected in the statement below, a commitment to academic freedom confers both rights and responsibilities to the University and community members.

Our commitment to academic freedom is consistent with Simmons’ vision statement:

Simmons will become a beacon of leadership in the world of higher education; a resource to our nation and world; known for our expertise in fields which improve the human condition; sought out for the findings of our highly reputable research and seen as the global expert in educating women for their own empowerment and for leadership.

Our value statement and mission related to issues of community, diversity, equity, and inclusion reflects the Simmons commitment to engaged discourse that recognizes and respects individuals in the context of communities at Simmons:

We honor the humanity, dignity, and individuality of each member of our Simmons community… We seek to extend to the entire Simmons University community opportunities for learning, growth, success, and meaningful participation and to build a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive culture for our community. To that end, we will engage in ongoing work to combat racism, bias, and all forms of individual and institutional oppression.

It is the responsibility of community members, not the University, to respond to ideas with which they disagree, not through the suppression of speech, but through intellectual engagement. Simmons supports the rights and responsibilities of community members to engage in disagreements and debates, even when contentious. As stated in the Chicago Principles: “Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of [Simmons University’s] educational mission.”

The statement below has been adopted from the First Global Colloquium of University Presidents, a gathering of university presidents held at Columbia University, January 18-19, 2005. Specific application to faculty pursuits of research and teaching can be found in Simmons University’s Faculty Policy Manual.

Academic freedom requires the institutional autonomy of universities, which enables them to preserve the human record of knowledge and ideas, to advance the discovery and interpretation of new knowledge, to educate students, and to serve the larger society. This autonomy includes the right of Simmons University to determine for itself, on academic grounds, who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study. Likewise, this institutional autonomy should determine the framework for statutory provisions that govern or impact universities.

Simmons University bears a responsibility to protect the faculty, staff, and students who work within it from improper pressures, whether political, cultural, economic, or ideological. Universities must maintain and encourage freedom of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication, and they must protect all members of the academic staff and student body against external and internal influences that might restrict the exercise of these freedoms.

Academic freedom is fundamental to the central values and purposes of universities, which must in turn protect freedom of inquiry and speech, without which neither faculty nor students can flourish or achieve the ends that academic freedom is designed to serve. Scholars and students must be able to study, learn, speak, teach, research, and publish, without fear of intimidation or reprisal, free from political interference, in an environment of tolerance for and engagement with divergent opinions. The teacher is entitled to freedom in the class in discussing his or her subject, and when speaking or writing outside the class as an individual, the teacher must be free from institutional censorship or discipline.

Academic freedom carries with it a concomitant responsibility of scholars to resist corrupting influences on their research and teaching, to transcend partisanship and prejudice, and to foster intellectually vigorous and open discussion within the class, adhering to the highest norms and standards of scholarly inquiry and teaching. In their academic duties, faculty are responsible to further the learning of students and should avoid statements and actions that may inhibit students’ freedom of inquiry and expression, thereby compromising the university’s most fundamental values.