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New statement about freedom within academia

New statement about freedom of research, teaching and speech

SDU’s board has approved a statement that defines a framework for how the University relates to matters of freedom of research, freedom of teaching and freedom of speech and debate. The statement has been prepared by an employee-based working group which believes that an official document will benefit both employees and students at SDU.

SDU now has an official statement that will serve as a compass for employees and provide them with a point of reference, and which the University can also use as a guideline in cases regarding freedom of research, freedom of teaching and freedom of speech and debate. This has been made clear after a board meeting on 13 June, when the statement was approved. 

SDU’s Rector Jens Ringsmose is pleased with the final result and still believes that the internal discussion of SDU’s fundamental values and the final statement will be useful for the University in the future.

- Without a clearly and explicitly worded basis that can serve as a compass or map and provide general answers to what the fundamental values of the University are, it will be difficult to approach future cases in a consistent and transparent way. I am very pleased with the final result and with the efforts of the working group and all the collegial parties involved.

Important document for SDU employees

The statement has been prepared by a working group with the broad involvement of collegiate bodies. Since January, the working group met with internal and external parties and have widely studied Danish and international material about the freedom to research, teach, debate and express oneself.

The chair of the working group is Professor Sten Rynning, and he is very happy with the employee-led work process, which has resulted in a reader-friendly statement that links the rights of freedom to the University’s true and higher purpose – namely, to create new knowledge.

- On behalf of the working group, I think we have ended up with a fantastically good and coherent product. It is important to have a statement that very clearly communicates how the University stands in difficult, concrete cases that can easily come under political and moral scrutiny. The statement provides good support for conducting research and teaching, and it assures SDU employees and students that one can throw oneself into creating knowledge without risk of getting into difficulties for that reason, he says.

Historical basis for the statement

SDU’s new statement about freedom of research, freedom of teaching and freedom of speech and debate is in line with the fundamental values of universities, which date back to the Enlightenment. It has been on the premise of academic freedom that universities have generated new knowledge for many years, and it is to this freedom that the University, the management, the researchers and the lecturer are obliged.

- The purpose of the University is to seek, create and disseminate knowledge for the benefit of society and humanity. Freedom of research, freedom of teaching and freedom of speech and debate are the resources which support this purpose. These freedoms create the institutional autonomy of the University and individual free space for the researchers and lecturers that the procurement of new knowledge requires. These freedoms have been historically determined and should not be taken for granted, it reads in the statement.

Sten Rynning emphasises that there will continue to be a framework within which to act as a researcher or lecturer.

- The statement also makes visible and illustrates that with all freedom comes responsibility for the actors. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, and rights of freedom are thus a resource for achieving the higher goal of more knowledge.

Download the full statement

Get the pdf file here

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