Chancellor James Moeser recently addressed concerns raised about academic freedom at the University.
Moeser, in a June 10 e-mail to faculty, echoed his support for the educational freedom long associated with the University and encouraged a yearlong focus on the issue.
“At the dawn of the American Republic, the University of North Carolina was founded on the profound belief that a new and fragile democratic society needed a new way of thinking and new forms of teaching and learning,” Moeser wrote. “Overnight, America had transformed itself from an authoritarian society to one in which citizens had a voice. This required a new kind of university for a new kind of citizenship. That was the reason for our creation.”
The chancellor referred to the evolution of academic freedom from the Enlightenment in Europe to the University of Berlin in 1810, which established the principles of Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit — the freedom to teach and the freedom to learn.
“The central premise of this freedom is the self-regulation of the faculty, the self-governance of the academy,” wrote Moeser. “One could argue that the acceptance of responsibility differentiates freedom from license. Indeed it is this self-regulation that is the appropriate governor of our freedom, not the intervention of others outside the academy.”
Moeser’s e-mail said that academic freedom requires faculty and administrators to be “rigorous in our protection of the right of all points of view to be heard, knowing that sunlight and transparency are the greatest disinfectants of evil and untruth.
“I believe it is time for us, as America’s first public university, to renew our understanding of what our core principles and values are with regard to academic freedom — in practice as well as theory.”
Moeser applauded Faculty Council Chair Judith Wegner for initiating an initial forum on academic freedom. He also thanked the faculty “for the excellent work that you do, as teachers and scholars, and for the essential service you provide to the state, nation and world.”