Occidental College: Faculty Council Considers Resolution Threatening the Academic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience of Whole Faculty

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Occidental College

In response to student protests on campus, Occidental College’s Faculty Council will soon vote on a resolution—dubbed a “Plan of Action”—that threatens the rights of free speech, academic freedom, and freedom of conscience of all faculty. The resolution states that the faculty “recognize[s] that the structural racism and other forms of oppression of the College violate our commitment to ensuring equity and excellence in our educational programs for all of our students.” While the overarching goals proposed by this preamble are undoubtedly agreeable to many faculty members, the resolution goes on to propose mandates that threaten to compel professors’ adherence to a particular politicized ideology in their teaching, thinking, and scholarship. These provisions include, among others, mandatory diversity training for faculty and a requirement that professors “incorporate issues of cultural and racial identity and diversity” into their curricula (presumably regardless of the subject taught). Most worrying of all is the call to establish an “effective mechanism for students to address and report microaggressions or other conflicts between students and faculty.” Creating such a system will inevitably encourage faculty to self-censor, especially on difficult or controversial topics, for fear of uttering something subjectively offensive to a student, possibly resulting in investigation and discipline.

FIRE wrote to the Faculty Council on November 24, 2015, urging the council to reject the resolution as a threat to their fundamental rights.