Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 5

academicfreedomstatement

Recently, the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion released a draft update to its 2006 statement on Academic Freedom and the Teaching of Religion and solicited feedback from members. Given that the members of Culture on the Edge are all scholars of religion, some have opted to offer their feedback to the AAR via this short series of posts on our site. (An index to all the posts in this series can be found here)

Monica Miller

As a scholar on the “critical” side of many debates in the study of religion, I have a general frustration with the impact of religious institutional footprints, affiliations and ethical assumptions on the American Academy of Religion. The language of “…within and outside of communities of belief and practice” and talk of “…religious traditions, issues, questions, and values” in the recent proposed revisions on the AAR Statement on Academic Freedom comes as no surprise. Continue reading “Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 5”

Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 4

academicfreedomstatementRecently, the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion released a draft update to its 2006 statement on Academic Freedom and the Teaching of Religion and solicited feedback from members. Given that the members of Culture on the Edge are all scholars of religion, some have opted to offer their feedback to the AAR via this short series of posts on our site. (An index to all the posts in this series can be found here)

Russell McCutcheon

Over the past few weeks I wrote a long series, posted at my Department’s own blog, in reply to another recently released draft document from the AAR, that one on research responsibilities. Since so much of this new draft is not actually on academic freedom at all (i.e., addressed to the institutional conditions that provide researchers and teachers with the necessary latitude to do their jobs) but, rather, on the scholar’s own duties and obligations to their students, the people with whom they work, and the people whom they study, it seems that much of what I wrote in that other series equally applies here. That is, the two documents are unnecessarily redundant (i.e., count how often you read the word “responsibility” in this academic freedom statement). So I’d prefer that readers, after looking through this new academic freedom statement, then work through my earlier posts on research responsibilities (notably, this one), to save me from being unnecessarily redundant here.

Oh, and as they do this, I’d suggest that readers also ask themselves why the Board is so focused on an individual’s obligations when they think about writing on academic freedom? It’s almost as if they can’t conceive of structure-wide analysis and opt, instead, to think merely of the lone individual as being in need of governance. Continue reading “Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 4”

Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 3

academicfreedomstatementRecently, the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion released a draft update to its 2006 statement on Academic Freedom and the Teaching of Religion and solicited feedback from members. Given that the members of Culture on the Edge are all scholars of religion, some have opted to offer their feedback to the AAR via this short series of posts on our site. (An index to all the posts in this series can be found here)

Craig Martin

I’m extremely grateful to the AAR for including reference to the AAUP’s statement on collegiality; the requirement of collegiality and civility are potentially directly opposed to academic freedom. However, as Merinda Simmons noted earlier in this series, there appears to be a tension between those comments on collegiality and civility, on the one hand, and the recommendation that we be respectful, sensitive, patient, humble, and generous, on the other. The definitions of the former terms overlap largely with the definitions of the latter. Wikipedia—a good source of information about colloquial uses of words—reports that collegiality *involves respect* toward others. So we are to be respectful to others, but institutions cannot demand that we be respectful (i.e., collegial) toward others? Continue reading “Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 3”

Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 2

academicfreedomstatementRecently, the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion released a draft update to its 2006 statement on Academic Freedom and the Teaching of Religion and solicited feedback from members. Given that the members of Culture on the Edge are all scholars of religion, some have opted to offer their feedback to the AAR via this short series of posts on our site. (An index to all the posts in this series can be found here)

Merinda Simmons

The AAR Statement on Academic Freedom reads as rhetorically and intellectually scattered at best. The terms it leaves undefined (like “responsible”, “unsettling”, “sensitive”, along with a host of others) are not done any favors by the contradictory passages that directly undercut each other. Take, for instance, a couple of sentences early on in the Research section: “Researchers have the right to follow lines of inquiry where they lead but also the responsibility to exercise care, recognizing that our discoveries may have implications for the self-understanding and well being of students, colleagues, and members of the public. Criticism should not impede judicious critical scholarship, and our shared commitment to free inquiry means that scholars must be free from intimidation and free to form conclusions on the basis of shared scholarly norms, as understood by qualified peers.” Continue reading “Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 2”

Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 1

academicfreedomstatement

Recently, the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion released a draft update to its 2006 statement on Academic Freedom and the Teaching of Religion and solicited feedback from members. Given that the members of Culture on the Edge are all scholars of religion, some have opted to offer their feedback to the AAR via this short series of posts on our site. (An index to all the posts in this series can be found here)

Steven Ramey

The revision of the AAR Statement on Academic Freedom inserts attitudinal terms, such as humility, patience, and generosity, into the revised document (compared to the 2006 version) and thus distracts from the case for academic freedom. While those attitudes are often useful in engaging students and colleagues, they are more appropriate for discussions of best practices than a delineation of academic freedom. The malleability of such terms (with no standard to judge them against except the standards of whomever wants to employ them) creates a problem similar to the language of “collegiality” that the revised statement itself critiques in the final section on service, noting the AAUP’s rejection of that ill-defined rationale for denial of tenure. Continue reading “Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom, Part 1”

Response to the American Academy of Religion’s Statement on Academic Freedom: Index

AARFBpostIn response to the AAR’s invitation for comments on its recently
posted draft statement on academic freedom, over the coming days
some of the members of Culture on the Edge will offer
a brief series of comments.

Steven Ramey
Merinda Simmons
Craig Martin
Russell McCutcheon
Monica Miller