Free Speech at the University of Montana

Free Speech at the University of Montana

President's Statement

University of Montana President Seth Bodnar

The University of Montana upholds freedom of speech as a core value of our university and our country. It is a principle of constitutional magnitude, enshrined in our First Amendment.

In practice, this means that we will sometimes encounter ideas that provoke, anger, or wound us. Protecting the right of free expression can therefore conflict with our strong commitment to foster a campus that is welcoming and inclusive. This is a challenging tension with which we grapple as a society and as a university.

The solution to this tension, however, does not lie in censorship. Once we begin to pick and choose on the basis of which speech may occur, we open the gates to having our own voices silenced—yours, mine, and all those who do not voice majority opinions.

Allowing someone to speak on our campus is not an endorsement of his or her views, nor do we condone speech that is hateful or targets people based on their identities. What a speaker says may define him or her, but it does not define us. It is possible for us to stand firmly in support of free speech while also standing firm in our values.

The Constitution and a long history of case law makes it clear that public universities cannot ban speakers based on content or viewpoint. But this does not leave us powerless. There are things we can do. We can work to ensure that safety and order are maintained. We can speak out strongly, clearly, and critically to challenge speech with which we disagree. In doing so, we demonstrate that, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, the best remedy for bad ideas is good ones.

Academic Freedom

Policy Information

  • Policy Number: 370
  • Revision Date: 01/23/2017
  • Next Review Date: 01/23/2017
  • Responsible Office: Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • References: BOR 302, BOR 702.1, CBA

Policy

All faculty employed by the University of Montana shall enjoy certain rights and responsibilities. Faculty subject to the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the University Faculty Association will be governed by the provisions of that contract. The faculty of the School of Law will be governed by the rules established in that unit. All other faculty will be governed by this policy to the fullest extent applicable regarding the terms and conditions of employment.

I. ACADEMIC RESPONSIBILITIES

The concept of academic freedom must be accompanied by an equally demanding concept of academic responsibility. The concern of the University and its faculty for academic freedom safeguards must extend equally to requiring responsible service, consistent with the objective of the University. Every faculty member is at one and the same time (1) a teacher, (2) a member of the faculty of the University, and (3) a scholar. By virtue of a faculty position in the University, the individual shares all three of these functions, each of which is of great importance.

As a member of a faculty, each person is expected to relate in a professional manner with colleagues in the academic community. Similarly, each faculty member is expected to participate in the work of the unit and of the institutionThe expectation of professionally respectful behavior by faculty shall, likewise, be reciprocal for UM Administrators whereby they relate to faculty in the same manner. Faculty shall not be subject to abuse, threats, intimidation, bullying, discrimination (Section 2.800) or unprofessional behavior. The definition of a safe and healthy workplace (Section 4.100) shall include professionalism as defined (Section 6.200) and non-discrimination (Section 2.800).

As a teacher, every faculty member is responsible for the effective instruction, including evaluation, of students at the University. In keeping with this all faculty members shall prepare a syllabus for each course they teach. A current copy of each syllabus will be placed in an electronic data base for access by students. Each faculty member shall provide an electronic copy of their current syllabi within thirty (30) days of the start of the semester to their academic Dean (See Section 14.100 for Copyright Policy).  Aspects of effective instruction include teaching classes in accordance with official descriptions and meeting classes in accordance with published schedules at on-campus locations, off-campus locations germane to the subject matter, or at other locations approved by the dean or the dean’s designee. No classes may be taught off-campus or at unscheduled locations at any time by any faculty member without prior approval of the appropriate dean or the dean’s designee.

The faculty member should have both a depth and breadth of knowledge in the discipline and be able to communicate this knowledge effectively to the students. The faculty member should maintain an active interest in the advances and current thinking in the subject being taught and be able to relate such information to teaching in an organized manner through incorporation into course materials. Moreover, the faculty member should maintain a critical attitude toward teaching and should strive continuously to improve it. Obviously, the faculty member shall avoid persistent intrusion of totally unrelated material into classroom presentations. The effective teacher feels and exhibits enthusiasm for his/her subject and creates an environment that stimulates imaginative thinking.


Faculty members should have a deep interest in the students’ progress and welfare, which includes counseling and advising assigned advisees as well as other students on their program of study and other academic matters, and maintaining a responsible, professional relationship with the students. Both faculty member and advisee share responsibility for making the advising relationship successful. The advisor and advisee should discuss the educational objectives suited to the advisee’s demonstrated abilities and expressed interests. The advisor helps the advisee to understand the relationship between academic programs and undergraduate research opportunities, internships, study abroad programs, and other academic experiences provided by the University.

The faculty member will carefully ensure equal application of class standards and requirements. Faculty shall preserve the records necessary to compute final grades for one academic term including records of student attendance. For one full semester following the semester a student receives a grade, faculty will retain all academic course materials used as the basis for a student’s semester grade (papers, tests and/or other written or printed materials), which are not returned to the student. Fall Semester grade records and course materials will be kept until the end of the next Spring Semester; while Spring Semester and any summer course grade records and course materials will be kept until the end of the next Fall Semester. Each faculty member has obligations and responsibilities to assist in the proper administration of University affairs. Faculty members may be called upon to serve on committees, attend University functions, and render public service in the areas of professional competence.

As a scholar, the person is responsible to the University and to society to keep informed about advances in knowledge and to engage in an active program of research or creative activities as judged by peers. This activity, though in general not formally scheduled, is nevertheless essential. In large measure the welfare of society depends on it. Although the artist faculty member may be a scholar, the faculty member should have the unqualified option of being a productive artist. Creative work in any field, such as literature, music, art, and drama, through its contributions to our cultural life, ranks equally with research and scholarly publications.

These functions and responsibilities should not be thought of as mutually exclusive, but as overlapping and complementary. Thus, active participation in the work of learned societies is related to a person's work as both scholar and member of the faculty. Similarly, preparation of papers for publication, which is an example of a person's function as a scholar, may well grow out of the faculty member’s work as a teacher. Note: Extracted from CBA 6.200

II. ACADEMIC FREEDOM

The University of Montana has had a long tradition of, and a deep commitment to, academic freedom. The welfare and strength of the University and of society at large depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression. To this end the University of Montana shall recognize and protect full freedom of inquiry, teaching, research, discussion, study, publication, and, for artists, the creation and exhibition of works of art, without hindrance, restriction, equivocation, and/or reprisal. This right extends to other facets of campus life to include the right of a faculty member to speak on general educational questions or about the administration and operation of the University of Montana and Montana University System. The right of academic freedom shall be the right of every faculty member whether tenured or untenured.


This policy recognizes that each faculty member is also a citizen and a member of a learned profession, as well as an employee of an educational institution. When the faculty member speaks or writes as a citizen, the faculty member shall be free from institutional censorship or discipline. When acting as a private citizen, in writing, speech, or actions, the faculty member has an obligation to make it clear that the action, speech, or writing is as an individual and not as a representative of the University of Montana or Montana University System.

III. STUDENT COMPLAINT PROCEDURE

All faculty members shall be accorded the protection of the procedure outlined in Section 21.000 of the CBA.

Resources

   

Contact Info

  • Free Speech
  • Office of Legal Counsel
  • University Hall 133
  • Missoula, MT 59812
  • Phone: (406) 243-4742
  • Fax: (406) 243-2797