Some UW-Oshkosh professors think that academic freedom is in danger of fading away.
Political science professor Jim Simmons invited five Oshkosh professors to a panel discussing the issue of academic freedom in Gruenhagen Conference Center Tuesday night.
The professors were Miles Maguire, journalism; Marshall Missner, philosophy; Barbara Rau, business; Tony Palmeri, communications; and Tom Lammers, biology.
Oshkosh's Mission Statement says that members of a university community are free to pursue programs essential to the University Mission while providing an open and respectful environment that promotes knowledge.
"Freedom is always at risk, and that by extension, unless we exercise our freedom, we are in danger of losing it," said Maguire.
Rau asked some of her colleagues five questions regarding academic freedom and made transparencies to show the audience the results.
"I think in some ways, it reveals an elementary thinking of what academic freedom really is," said Rau.
In response, an operations manager said academic freedom is a concept people take for granted, and rarely think about it.
"I feel I am limited as to how well and effectively I can talk about ethics," said another colleague.
Others said academic freedom is not about having the right to speak, but being willing to use it.
"In my view, instances of someone abusing academic freedom are much more rare than instances of someone failing to speak out when they ought to," said another colleague.
Rau said she was disturbed by her colleagues' answers.
"I think it goes fundamentally back to the way we are trained in doctorate programs," said Rau. "I know I never took a course or any kind of seminar that talks about this issue and it's a major part of what we do as a profession."
Chancellor Richard Wells agreed with the panelists, saying academic freedom is in trouble. Wells also said staff and faculty members should be reminded about academic freedom.
"Individuals are starting to view their career on individual economic gain, rather than a gain for the community they're serving," Rau said.
Society needs people to speak about troubling ideas whether the powerful people in society will fire them from their jobs or not, Palmeri said.
Free speech is essential to finding the truth because you need to have a clash of ideas to have the truest ideas emerge, said Missner.
"The question that we have to ask ourselves is whether we believe in academic freedom in fact, or merely a convenient way to shield ourselves in criticism," Maguire said.
All the panelists agreed that Kevin Barrett's appearance on October 26 will be a good example of academic freedom.
"I don't know if his argument is right or wrong, I want to hear more," said Palmeri.
Lammers said that people should be allowed to hear all the facts of a situation before choosing a side to believe.