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Statement on Academic Freedom

Cal Poly recognizes and supports the principle of academic freedom, by which each instructional faculty member, researcher, librarian and counselor has the right to teach, to conduct research, and to publish material relevant to that faculty member's discipline, even when such material is controversial.

The University also guarantees to its faculty the same rights shared by all citizens, which include:

  • the right to free expression,
  • the right to assemble, and
  • the right to criticize and seek revision of the institution's regulations.

At the same time, the faculty should recognize an equally binding obligation to perform their academic duties responsibly and to comply with the internal regulations of the University.

Each faculty member is expected to recognize the right of free expression of other members of the university community; intolerance and personal abuse are unacceptable.

Faculty shall not claim to be representing the University unless authorized to do so.

Cal Poly endorses the nationally recognized definition of academic freedom from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP): The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure with 1970 Interpretative Notes, as follows:

(a) Teachers1 are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research, for pecuniary return, should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

(b) Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial subject matter which has no relation to the subject.2 Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of appointment.

(c) College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and institution by their utterances. Hence, they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraints, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate they are not speaking for the institution.

1 The footnote from the 1940 Statement states: "The word 'teacher' as used in this document is understood to include the investigator who is attached to an academic institution without teaching duties." Reference: "AAUP: The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure" with 1970 Interpretative Notes, adopted by the Council of the American Association of University Professors in April 1970 and endorsed by the Fifty-sixth Annual Meeting as Association policy.

2 The footnote from the 1970 Interpretative Notes on the AAUP Statement reads: "The intent of this statement is not to discourage what is ‘controversial.’ Controversy is at the heart of free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to focus. The passage serves to underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has no relation to the subject."


Academic Senate Resolution: AS-693-09 "Resolution on Academic Freedom" (PDF). Adopted 2 June 2009.

Cal Poly Catalog: "Academic Freedom"

CSU Policy: RFSA 71-11 "Academic Freedom Policy".  Revised 22 December 2022.

Campus Administrative Policies: CAP 141.2 "Policy Statement Regarding Free Expression and First Amendment Rights".

Last updated 8/16/2023

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