Faculty Rights and Responsibilities 

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Faculty Rights and Responsibilities 

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities 

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities 

Source MSU Faculty Handbook (Last updated: 7/27/1984)


The following policy was approved by the Board of Trustees on July 27, 1984.

The Bylaws of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees state that "the Constitution (of the State of Michigan) confers upon the Board of Trustees the freedom, power, and responsibility to develop a free and distinguished university and to promote the welfare of mankind through teaching, research, and public service." 1,2,3

As the primary functions of an academic community, learning, teaching, scholarship, and public service must be characterized by a fundamental commitment to academic freedom and maintained through reasoned discourse, intellectual honesty, mutual respect and openness to constructive criticism and change. Faculty members, as central to this community, serve as scholars pursuing the search for knowledge and its free expression, as teachers instructing students, and as professionals and citizens contributing special knowledge and skills through public service and community participation. In the performance of all these functions faculty members are held accountable to the University, in accordance with established policies and procedures, by the Board of Trustees which, as an elected body, is responsible to the people of the State of Michigan. 4

In order to carry out the mission of the University, faculty members, as members of both the academic and the broader public community, have the right to a clear statement of academic freedom, tenure, and other fundamental faculty rights and responsibilities. The purpose of this document is to acknowledge these fundamental rights and responsibilities. 5

Academic Freedom and Responsibility

Michigan State University endorses academic freedom and responsibility as essential to attainment of the University's goal of the unfettered search for knowledge and its free exposition. Academic freedom and responsibility are fundamental characteristics of the University environment and are always closely interwoven and at times indistinguishable. Academic freedom and responsibility are the twin guardians of the integrity and quality of universities. The University looks to its faculty members to exercise their rights responsibly and to meet their obligations fully as professionals. Faculty acceptance of their responsibilities to students, colleagues, the scholarly community, and the public explains in great part why society historically has accepted the concept of academic freedom and has afforded its protection through the institution of academic tenure.

For faculty members, the principal elements of academic freedom include:

  1. The right, as teachers, to discuss in the classroom any material which has a significant relationship to the subject matter as defined in the approved course description;
  2. The right to determine course content, grading, and classroom procedures in the courses they teach;
  3. The right to conduct research and to engage in creative endeavors;
  4. The right to publish or present research findings and creative works;
  5. The right to engage in public service activities; and
  6. The right to seek changes in institutional policy through established University procedures and by lawful and peaceful means.
Academic freedom carries with it responsibilities. For faculty members, the principal elements include:
  1. The responsibility to carry out assigned teaching, research, and public service duties in a professional manner and in keeping with University policy;
  2. The responsibility, as teachers, to refrain from introducing matters which are not consistent with their teaching duties and professional competence and which have no significant bearing on the subject matter of the course as approved under University procedures;
  3. The responsibility to pursue excellence and intellectual honesty in teaching, research, and other creative endeavors and in public service activities; and in publishing or presenting research findings and creative works;
  4. The responsibility to encourage students and colleagues to engage in free discussion and inquiry; and to evaluate student and colleague performance on a scholarly basis;
  5. The responsibility to work in a collegial manner with appropriate individuals and bodies to encourage the free search for knowledge; its free exposition, and the University's continuing quest for excellence; and
  6. The responsibility to differentiate carefully their official activities as faculty members from their personal activities as citizens and, when the situation warrants, to make it clear that, when speaking as private citizens, they do not speak for the University.
The above list provides a summary outline of the principal elements of academic freedom and responsibility. More detailed and explicit definitional statements applicable to specific faculty rights and responsibilities are set forth below under the following headings: Academic Tenure, Academic Governance, Teaching, Research and Creative Activity, Public Service, Relations with Colleagues, Relation to the University and the Community, and Resolution of Conflicts.


 The terms, "faculty" or "faculty members," as used in this document, apply to individuals appointed in the tenure system with the rank of instructor through professor. (However, as applicable in the context of assigned duties and responsibilities, the provisions of this policy apply to all faculty and academic staff).

 Bylaws of the Board of Trustees, as amended January 24-25, 1980, Preamble, page 1.

 "The Board of Trustees, the administration, and the faculty carry out their respective responsibilities not as isolated entities, but as major and primary constituents of the total University organization and structure which remain mutually independent and must be supportive of each other's purposes, functions, and obligations. It is within this context that the rights and responsibilities of the faculty are to be construed" (Bylaws of the Board of Trustees, as amended January 24-25, 1980, Article 7, page 7.)

 "The Board of Trustees, elected by the voters of the State and responsible to all the people of Michigan, exercises the final authority in the government of the University, within the limits fixed by the State Constitution. In exercising its responsibility, the Board delegates to the President of the University and through the President to the faculty, appropriate authority and jurisdiction over matters for which they are held accountable by the Board. These matters include educational policy and the development of a strong and efficient organization with which to accomplish the objectives of the University." (Bylaws of the Board of Trustees, as amended January 24-25, 1980, Preamble, page l.)

 Some faculty rights and responsibilities referred to in this document are stated elsewhere (see Appendix A).

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Makena Neal #iteachmsu