ASBH Statement on Academic Freedom

Recently, there has been a coordinated legislative campaign to limit academic freedom in a number of states. Since 2021, over 300 state bills have been introduced. These efforts are particularly harmful to faculty in public colleges and universities and could potentially affect ASBH members who work in public colleges and universities in these states.

Academic freedom is a long-standing and fundamental tenet of higher education that can be traced back to the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Limitations on academic freedom not only harms scholars, professionals, students, and others, but it also undermines the goals of higher education. As AAUP explains, “institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good … [which] depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.”

The importance of the free exchange of ideas is highlighted in ASBH’s mission statement, which describes ASBH as “an educational organization whose purpose is to promote the exchange of ideas and foster multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and inter-professional scholarship, research, teaching, policy development, professional development, and collegiality.” Academic freedom supports pluralism and the free exchange of ideas and is important to all fields of study.  It is especially critical for scholars working in bioethics and health humanities, since this work often involves addressing topics that are potentially controversial, such as reproduction, end of life care, and health disparities, among many others.  Engaging with a plurality of views is essential to accurately understand and appropriately address issues in bioethics and health humanities. This is not merely a theoretical matter. Bioethics and health humanities scholarship buttress real-world practices, such as clinical ethics consultation and health policy.  

Academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas are cornerstone values for higher education and educational organizations such as ASBH. We stand with our members who seek to exercise academic freedom.

This statement was issued on July 24, 2023.