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Statement on the Academic Freedom of Students

(Adopted by the DePauw Faculty, April 18, 1966)


Free inquiry and free expression are essential attributes of the academic community. As members of that community, students should be encouraged to develop their capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. The freedom to learn depends upon the maintenance of appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus and in the larger community.

The responsibility to respect and to secure general conditions conducive to the freedom to learn is shared by all components of the academic community. Students should endeavor to exercise their freedom with maturity and responsibility. Student responsibilities will not be defined specifically in this statement for it is recognized that personal responsibility emerges from the exercise of the specific rights herein affirmed.

I. In the Classroom

The professor in the classroom and in conference has the obligation to maintain an atmosphere of free discussion, inquiry, and expression, and should take no action to penalize students because of their opinions or because of their conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards. He also has the obligation to evaluate their performance justly.

A. Protection of the Freedom of Expression. Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in particular courses of study. They may be required to know the particulars set out by the instructor, but they should be free to reserve personal judgment as to the truth or falsity of what is presented. Knowledge and academic performance should be the basis on which students are measured.

B. Protection Against Unjust Grading or Evaluation. Students must maintain standards of academic performance set by the faculty if they are to receive the certificate of competence implied by the course credits and degrees. The student should have protection against unjust grading and evaluation due to error and prejudice. The basis of the final evaluation in any course should be available to the student on request. It is recommended that examinations be returned to students or kept for reference by the professor for at least one semester. The faculty should have an orderly procedure whereby student allegations of prejudice or error in the awarding of grades may be reviewed.

C. Protection Against Improper Disclosure. Information about student views, beliefs, and political associations which professors acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisers, and counselors should be considered confidential. Protection against improper disclosure is a serious professional obligation. Judgments of ability and character may be provided under appropriate circumstances.

II. Student Records

DePauw University should maintain a carefully considered policy as to the information which should be part of a student’s permanent educational record and as to the conditions of its disclosure. To minimize the risk of improper disclosure, academic and disciplinary records should be separate and the conditions of access to each should be set forth in an explicit policy statement. Transcripts of academic records should contain only information about academic status. Data from disciplinary and counseling files should not be available to unauthorized persons on campus or to any person off campus except for the most compelling reasons. No records should be kept which reflect the political activities or beliefs of students. Provision should also be made for periodic routine destruction of noncurrent disciplinary records. Faculty, administrative staff, and student personnel officers should respect confidential information about students which they acquire in the course of their work.

III. Student Affairs

In student affairs, certain standards must be maintained if the academic freedom of students is to be preserved.

A. Freedom from Arbitrary Discrimination. Colleges and Universities should be open to all students who are academically qualified. University facilities and services should be open to all students. Furthermore, DePauw University should use its influence to secure equal access for all students to public facilities in the local community.

B. Freedom of Association. The University should protect the freedom of students to organize to promote their common interests. Institutional intervention in the activities of student organizations should be exceptional. Activities of student organizations which clearly hamper the implementation of established academic programs and student activities which violate stated university regulations are instances in which intervention might occur. Generally, however, institutional policies should be supportive, not restrictive, of student freedom.

  1. Affiliation with an extra-mural organization should not of itself affect recognition of a student organization.

  2. A student organization seeking University recognition must have a campus adviser of its own choosing. Institutional recognition should not be withheld or withdrawn solely because of the inability of a student organization to secure an adviser. Members of the faculty serve the college community when they accept the responsibility to advise and consult with student organizations; they should not have the authority to control the policy of such organizations.

  3. Student organizations may be required to submit a current list of officers, but they should not be required to submit a membership list as a condition of institutional recognition.

  4. Campus organizations should be open to all students without respect to race, religion, creed, or national origin.

  5. Students and student organizations should be free to examine and to discuss all questions of interest to them, and to express opinions publicly or privately. They should also be free to support causes by any orderly means which do not disrupt the regular and essential operation of the institution.

  6. Students should be allowed to invite and to hear any person of their own choosing. While the orderly scheduling of facilities may require the observance of routine procedures before a guest speaker is invited to appear on campus, institutional control of campus facilities should never be used as a device of censorship. It should be made clear to the academic and larger community that sponsorship of guest speakers does not necessarily imply approval or endorsement of the views expressed, either by the sponsoring group or DePauw University.

C. Student Participation in Institutional Government. As constituents of the academic community, students should be free, individually and collectively, to express their views on issues of institutional policy and on matters of general interest to the student body. The student body should have clearly defined means to participate in the formulation and application of regulations affecting student affairs. Student government should be protected from arbitrary intervention, such as removal or suspension of officers, by the withholding of funds, or by unilateral changes in the charter which defines its organization and competence.

D. Freedom of Student Publication. An academic community requires freedom to exchange information and ideas.

  1. DePauw University should promote and sustain institutional policies which will provide students the freedom to establish their own publications and to conduct them free of censorship or of faculty or administrative determination of content or editorial policy, yet within the limits of the laws concerning libel and slander.

  2. Editors and managers should subscribe to canons of responsible journalism. At the same time, they should be protected from arbitrary suspension and removal because of student, faculty, administrative, or public disapproval of editorial policy or content. Only for proper and stated causes should editors and managers be subject to removal and then by orderly and prescribed procedures

  3. Students should be free to establish, publish, and distribute publications unsubsidized by the University without institutional censorship.

IV. Off- Campus Freedom of Students

The faculty and administration have an obligation to insure that institutional authority and disciplinary powers are not employed to circumvent or limit the rights of students as members of the larger community.

A. Exercise of Rights of Citizenship. Students should enjoy the same freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly, and the right to petition the authorities, that citizens generally possess. Exercise of these rights on or off the campus should not subject them to institutional penalties.

B. Institutional Authority and Civil Penalties. Activities of students may upon occasion result in violation of law. In such cases, institutional officials should apprise students of their legal rights and may offer other assistance. Students who violate the law may incur penalties prescribed by civil authorities, but institutional authority should never be used merely to duplicate the function of general laws. Only where the institution’s interests as an academic community are distinct from those of the general community should the special authority of the institution be asserted. The student who incidentally violates institutional regulations in the course of off- campus activity, such as those relating to class attendance, should be subject to no greater penalty that would normally be imposed. Institutional action should be independent of community pressure. The University has no obligation to protect students from the penalties of civil law.

V. Procedural Standards in Disciplinary Proceedings

The faculty has an obligation to see that students are not disciplined for alleged misconduct without adequate procedural safeguards. The following procedures are recommended to assure reasonable protection of the student, a fair determination of the facts, and the application of appropriate sanction.

A. Notice of Standards of Conduct Expected of Students. Disciplinary proceedings should be instituted only for violation of standards of conduct defined in advance and published through such means as a student handbook or a generally available body of university regulations. Offenses should be as clearly defined as possible, and such vague phrases as “undesirable conduct” or “conduct injurious to the best interest of the institution” should be avoided.

B. Investigation of Student Conduct.

  1. Except under emergency circumstances, premises occupied by students and the personal possessions of students should not be searched unless appropriate authorization has been obtained. For premises such as dormitories controlled by the institution, an appropriate and responsible authority should be designated to whom application should be made before a search is conducted. The application should specify the reasons for the search and the objects or information sought. The student should be present, if possible, during the search. For premises not controlled by the institution, the ordinary requirements for lawful search should be followed.

  2. Students detected or arrested in the course of serious violations of institutional regulations, or infractions of ordinary law, should be informed of their rights. No form of harassment should be used by institutional representatives to coerce admissions of guilt or information about conduct of other suspected persons.

  3. Status of Student Pending Final Action. Pending action on the charges, the status of a student should not be altered, or his right to be present on the campus and to attend classes suspended, except for reasons relating to the safety of students, faculty, or university property.

D. Disciplinary Procedures. The formality of the procedures to which a student is entitled in disciplinary cases would be proportionate to the gravity of the offense and the sanctions which may be imposed. Both major and minor penalties would be assessed by the University under prescribed consistent procedures. In the case of a grave offense, where severe sanctions may be imposed, the student should, on his request, be given a formal statement in writing containing the particular reasons for the disciplinary action. The student should be given sufficient time to prepare a defense, have the right to an adviser of his choice, and to hear and have the opportunity to rebut adverse evidence, inferences or witnesses in a hearing presided over by an impartial party.