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Academic Freedom

Fenton7Fenton7 Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
edited October 2009 in Rice University
What is the university's stance on academic freedom? That is, do protests or flyers have to be approved by the administration before they're allowed? What is freedom of speech like? Are there censorship issues at all? Is the university encouraging of dissenting opinions - do they support Open for instance? Do students feel comfortable penning critiques of the university or doing performance art in the quad for example?

The topic sounds foreign I realize, but I currently attend a school which functions like a gulag. The students aren't granted academic freedom, so describing the academic, extracurricular, and student body scene as vanilla would be putting it nicely...
Post edited by Fenton7 on

Replies to: Academic Freedom

  • YAHAYAHA Registered User Posts: 359 Member
    Posting flyers on walls and protesting (protesting what, by the way ????) have as much to do with academic freedom as did the student riots of the 60s. Everything you have on your list has no (or very distant at best) relation to the word "academic". Also, if a "dissenting opinion" has merit, it doesnt need to be "encouraged". It will grow its own feet and live its own life. Do you really think you have enough merit to criticise a school from which you havent even graduated yet? What does a university have to do to "grant" you an academic freedom? Does it need to allow you to read books you wish to read? Or allow you to write papers you want to write?
  • anxiousmomanxiousmom Registered User Posts: 5,790 Senior Member
    Fenton - YAHA is in high school - not a Rice student. I'm not a Rice student, either, but I have one kid who graduated from Rice in '08, and one that will graduate in '11. I can answer this one; "Do students feel comfortable penning critiques of the university or doing performance art in the quad for example". I've read the Thresher for years, and there are plenty of letters to the editor freely criticizing anything in administration or the university that students don't like. (Sometimes I think the students think that they should only write letter if they have something to criticize and forget that you can also write letters celebrating the good stuff! ;)) I'll let students answer the other issues.
  • Fenton7Fenton7 Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    I recognize again the foreignness of such an idea as freedom on campus - we are, as Americans, conditioned under the First Amendment to be raised with an entitled attitude to the idea of freedom of speech. It doesn't cross our minds on a daily basis. But I must disagree with you YAHA that academic freedom has more to do with overall freedom than one may think. Here, due to certain values, it is outrightly stated that students do not have academic freedom. Our class variety is limited, our majors are limited. This in turn spill over to the university's take on student life - GLBTQ and minority groups are underfunded and displaced. Groups that may be against values of certain corporations are not allowed to protest at career fairs. Any sort of protest must be cleared with the administration beforehand; thus, if they feel it conflicts with their ambiguous ideals to life values, it cannot take place. The press here is not free either - we have had members of the administration destroy copies of our paper for a dissenting opinion or severely reprimand students for caricaturizing community service they felt was useless.

    A dissenting opinion may very well have merit, but does it have a medium to be dispersed by, an audience who will listen, or most importantly, a writer who will come out of hiding? Things don't just "grow on its own feet and live."

    I do believe I have a right to choose the way in which I am educated, and so I do feel that I have every right to criticize the institution I attend if I feel that it is cheating its scholars and professors to the process of learning. I am here voluntarily to learn how and not what to think.

    Thus, you are right in saying that a university does need to grant its students academic freedom by way of its mission statement and its actions toward student life. It does need to ensure that my papers and books will not be obstructed because we do not agree. Where I go to school, I am not ensured these things. Therefore, I am curious about Rice's take to such pertinent issues - it does seem like it is progressive and supportive by way of Open's birth, for example. However, I would like to know from a student's perspective how they feel about Rice and its take to censorship.

    As Noam Chomsky said: “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.”
  • Fenton7Fenton7 Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    P.S. Thank you anxiousmom for your take - your posts on other threads have been tremendously helpful.
  • YAHAYAHA Registered User Posts: 359 Member
    to anxiousmom: Hold your assumptions to yourself.
    to Fenton: I am not trying to answer your question. I am questioning the premise and a definition [of academic freedom] on which the question is based.
  • Fenton7Fenton7 Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    @ YAHA - anxiousmom wasn't assuming anything. She was giving her perspective as a parent, and frankly, she was far more informative than you have been. I hope that I was able to elucidate enough on my question so as to receive informative feedback.
  • demonsword55demonsword55 Registered User Posts: 515 Member
    Yeah there's lots of criticisms of the administration in the school newspaper. Otherwise, I am fairly certain you can post flyers without prior permission (provided they are not obscene or something). I am less sure about organized protests though. I think no matter where you are you have to get like a permit or something? Maybe someone else can shed light on that.
  • anxiousmomanxiousmom Registered User Posts: 5,790 Senior Member
    to anxiousmom: Hold your assumptions to yourself.
    Sorry. My mistake. YAHA is a college student seeking to transfer, not a high school student. But he is not a Rice student. And YAHA, I think that is an important thing to state, because you are haranguing Fenton, and he might think you are a Rice student.
  • Fenton7Fenton7 Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    Thanks so much for your help demonsword55 and anxiousmom - I think I've gotten the answer.
  • college316college316 Registered User Posts: 283 Junior Member
    The Rice Thresher is great about publishing all sorts of opinions, and people truly have no problem making their voices heard. Students read the Thresher every week and most Thresher stories have several comments online, made by readers who agree/diagree with the stories' content.

    There aren't really protests on campus, not because they're not allowed, but because generally the administration is very receptive to student concerns, and things don't devolve to the point of protesting. Students are very well-represented on various committees, governing bodies, etc.

    Also, Rice gives a HUGE amount of independence to the various residential colleges (financial and otherwise) so the administration isn't big on power plays that affect the entire university.
  • Fenton7Fenton7 Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    @college316 - Thanks so much! That's exactly the sort of information that I was looking for! I've heard that the university really works with the students - I appreciate that, and Rice students are very fortunate to have such control over their educational experience. Thanks again for your incredibly helpful answer!
This discussion has been closed.