What administrators should say when faculty are controversial

Since both the University of Rhode Island and Florida Atlantic University follow the standard practice of trying to make up responses to controversies over faculty statements, responses that fell well short of a vigorous defense of academic principles, I thought I might provide a boilerplate press release for all colleges and universities that can be modified to fit the circumstances with about two minutes of effort.

In the past few days, media attention has focused on statements by [faculty name], a faculty member in [department or college or discipline]. As a faculty member at [institutional name], the opinions of [faculty name] have been associated with [institutional name] by media reporting on the controversy.

In general, individual faculty at [institutional name] speak for themselves when remarking on public matters. Any faculty of any size will and should include a broad of range of views, including those that are highly controversial.

[The following to be added as appropriate:] Some have responded to the remarks by [faculty name] by calling for [his/her] dismissal based on [her/his] public comments. As the 1964 Statement on Extramural Utterances by the American Association of University Professors states, “a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for continuing service.”

We are proud of our faculty and are confident that students, parents, and our other neighbors in [state/region] understand the importance of free inquiry in higher education and understand that views of individual faculty are not the views of the institution.\

This does not cover other issues such as allegations of academic misconduct.

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