Commentary: Northwestern faculty debate academic freedom abroad amid changes to faculty handbook

Sarah McLaughlin
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: The Daily Northwestern reported last month that the Faculty Senate passed a motion to update the handbook’s academic freedom policy in foreign campuses at its July 14 meeting, revisions which had been “at least two years in the making.”  This is an especially relevant subject given the administration’s cancellation of an event featuring an openly gay musician at its Qatar campus last year.

However, there are ongoing disagreements over the updated handbook’s language about academic freedom existing “to the extent that applicable laws allow.” This disagreement cuts to the heart of the issue about American institutions overseas: Universities may promise their faculty a certain set of rights, but they likely cannot supersede local law. But detailing how they’ll respond, what measures they’ll take, and what violations may cause them to withdraw from overseas programs, might be the most important step they can take.