Senate Executive Committee discusses letters on academic freedom, Center for Advanced Study cuts

By Christin Watkins

The Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, CAFT, has received and reviewed letters critizing the state of academic freedom and the Appropriate Use of Policy, AUP, at the University.

David O’Brien, CAFT chair and art history professor, said the Foundation for Indiviual Rights in Education, FIRE, wrote to the committee to criticize academic freedom at the University. Individuals also wrote letters regarding AUP.

FIRE aims “to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities,” according to their website. The AUP works to maintain appropriate use of University computers and network systems, according to their website.

https://www.thefire.org/about-us/mission/

http://cs.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/files2/aup_easy_guide.pdf

While the letters have been acknowledged, the committee does not plan to respond to them individually.

“Our proliferation of these statements in defense of academic freedom (is that) they’re all good, but I don’t feel we need to sign on to every one of them,” he said.

O’Brien said he doesn’t believe action should be taken to make changes to any of the policies questioned in letters about the AUP.

“We don’t think we need to do anything in relation to it,” he said. “We already have strong language in our statutes and (the) AUP policy is clear on this. I think we can just file this and move on.”

Progressing to a new agenda item, SEC member Peter Schiffer said the University’s Center for Advanced Study (CAS) plans to reduce the number of staff they have, but it does not plan to change how the programs are administered.

Programs held by CAS include “a series of speakers from on and off campus, a symposium or conference as well as a faculty and graduate student seminar in the spring semester,” according to the CAS website.

http://cas.illinois.edu/events/

He estimated the total cost of the staff and programs is between $400,000 and $500,000.

“To my mind, that is too much” Schiffer said.

In order to limit costs, CAS will reduce the number of staff members and current faculty will take on those staff members’ duties. This should allow CAS to allocate more funding for academic programs, while giving less to administration, he said.

“This is an administrative budget decision, not an academic decision,” he said.

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