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Office of General Counsel Policies & Guidelines

Academic Freedom and Responsibility : 5:02:03:30

Policy/Guideline Area

Personnel Policies

Applicable Divisions

Community Colleges, Universities


The purpose of this policy is to establish the criteria and process regarding academic freedom and responsibility at community colleges and universities governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.


  1. Introduction
    1. The following policy of the Tennessee Board of Regents on academic freedom and responsibility is applicable to all universities/colleges within the System. The statement in Article II on academic freedom and responsibility may be adopted by each university/college, or a university/college may adopt an alternative statement, provided that the statement is consistent with the policies set forth herein.
    2. University/college policies on academic freedom and responsibility must cite and specifically acknowledge compliance with the Board Policy on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (5:02:03:30). Likewise, university/college policies must embody and communicate clearly as a minimum all provisions, definitions, and stipulations of the Board policy.
  2. Academic Freedom and Responsibility
    1. The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his or her subject, being careful not to introduce into the teaching unrelated subject matter.
    2. The faculty member is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of his/her other academic duties, including and consistent with any and all policies pertaining to clinical and research practices. Research for financial gain must be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the university, which is documented reduced to writing and signed by the faculty member and the appropriate academic officer(s)
    3. The faculty member is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an educational university/college. When the faculty member speaks or writes as a citizen, he/she should be free from university/college censorship or discipline, but his/her special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a man or woman of learning and an educational officer, he/she should remember that the public may judge the profession and the university/college by the faculty member's utterances. Hence, a faculty member should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that he/she does not speak for the university/college.
    4. Academic freedom is essential to fulfill the ultimate objectives of an educational university/college - the free search for and exposition of truth - and applies to teaching, research, and faculty participation in institutional governance. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth, and academic freedom in teaching is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. Faculty participation in institutional governance is fundamental to the development and maintenance of effective academic policies, national and regional accreditation, and shared responsibility for the delivery of educational programs and services to students. Implicit in the principle of academic freedom are the corollary responsibilities of the faculty who enjoy that freedom. Incompetence, indolence, intellectual dishonesty, failure to carry out assigned duties, serious moral dereliction, arbitrary and capricious disregard of standards of professional conduct - these and other grounds as set forth in TBR Policy, "Policy on Academic Tenure at Tennessee Board of Regents’ Universities, "Section P., may constitute adequate cause for dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions against faculty members subject to the provisions of Article III.
    5. The right to academic freedom imposes upon the faculty an equal obligation to take appropriate professional action against faculty members who are derelict in discharging their professional responsibilities. The faculty member has an obligation to participate in tenure and promotion review of colleagues as specified in university policy. Thus, academic freedom and academic responsibility are interdependent, and academic tenure is adopted as a means to protect the former while promoting the latter. While academic tenure is essential for the protection of academic freedom, the full benefits and responsibilities of academic freedom extend to all individuals teaching in the TBR System, whether or not they are eligible for tenure.


April 2, 2004; Board Meeting, Dec. 13, 2012; Revised September 20, 2013.

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Mickey Sheen