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Maintain clarity about academic freedom

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Tuesday’s story about Fr. Jenkins’ appointment of a special committee to examine the relationship of the principles of academic freedom generally accepted by American Universities to the special conditions associated with the artistic expression of opinions at odds with the mission of a Catholic University provided most faculty with their first notice of the existence of that committee.

A key issue raised by Bishop D’Arcy’s letter to the South Bend Tribune on related topics last February is that of the distinction of academic freedom as it is generally understood by universities in the United States, and the religious freedom of institutions such as Notre Dame. The distinction is familiar, clear and long standing.

The University will not be well served if the distinction is blurred or ignored in the course of constructing local academic policy. Our peer institutions, which no longer include other Catholic Universities, will not be sparing in their critique of policy modifications designed to avoid controversy or to obey ecclesiastical authority at the expense of well-settled professional standards.

Edward Manier professor Philosophy departmentDec. 6