Chancellor Response to Resistance and Revolution Course

November 23, 2016

General Academic Freedom Statements:  As the chancellor of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, I support and am governed by the Constitutional principle of free expression and its protection of both our faculty and our students.  This value is shared by the UCCS community and is rooted in the Laws of the Regents and other university policies that define the educational process at the University of Colorado.

I have stated before and reiterate these university tenets found in Regent Law.

As they pertain to the faculty:

  • The University of Colorado will promote an atmosphere of free inquiry and discussion. Academic freedom is the freedom to inquire, pursue, discover, publish and teach truth as the faculty member sees it, subject to no control or authority save the control and authority of the rational methods by which truth is established. The Board of Regents has determined that members of the faculty must have complete freedom to study, to learn, to do research, and to communicate the results of these pursuits to others.
  • A faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom when determining the content of a course, assigning readings, and framing the topics of discussion. Were it otherwise, a faculty member could not properly discharge his or her obligation to ensure that the course has met its stated educational goals.

As the tenets pertain to students:

  • Academic freedom does not vest solely in the faculty. The Laws of the Regents also require that students likewise must have freedom of study and discussion and the right to weigh conflicting opinions and determine for themselves the conclusions they will reach in a particular field.  Faculty, within the boundaries of the faculty’s ability to determine the subjects that a class explores and to ensure the class meets it stated objectives, should provide students with the environment that can foster the students’ intellectual curiosity and pursuits.

The full Regent Law is located at http://www.cu.edu/regents/article-5-faculty.

“Resistance and Revolution:” The current challenge to academic freedom results from UCCS’ Humanities 3990 course entitled “Resistance and Revolution.”  This course explores various constructs of resistance and revolution historically and sociologically by examining in varying degrees social, economic, political, religious and cultural movements, and examines lessons of both past and present and their applicability for students moving forward.  On November 16, 2016, The College Fix website, about which I have ethical concerns, posted an article and audio clips surreptitiously recorded throughout the semester. 

Investigation Overview:  Because I know from past experience that information cited in online media can be taken out of context, I determined it was necessary for me to investigate and, with the assistance of university counsel, determine what occurred and what future actions, if any, are appropriate.  My investigation included my review of the course syllabus as well as the posted article and audio. I also conferred with the Interim Provost, the Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Director of the Humanities program, the Chair of the Sociology Department, and the faculty teaching the course at issue. 

Additionally, the University requested The College Fix provide us the entirety of the audio - by either voice recording or written transcripts – in an effort to provide much-needed context. They have agreed to provide transcripts. We have not yet received the transcripts.

Journalism Standards:  In my determination, The College Fix did not accurately represent the entirety of the course but instead misled its readers, in tabloid-style tactics, by editing college-level course lectures/discussions occurring over several months, into a 10-minute audio clip without the benefit of context.  

The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics (http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp) provides that ethical journalism should be accurate and fair.  Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.  Specifically, journalists should:

  • Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
  • Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
  • Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  • Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.

It does not appear that this website subscribes to these and other professional journalism standards, as The College Fix distorted facts and failed to provide context.

Course Context:  While the faculty admit the written and audio recordings are generally accurate, the statements have been taken out of the context for the course.  For “Resistance and Revolution,” the course syllabus clearly articulates the course description, aims and objectives, guidelines and reading assignments, and schedule of topics.  The topics include discussions on ideologies, social movement dynamics, revolutions in America, France, Cuba as well as violent and nonviolent struggles. 

The faculty regret the use of occasional profanity in the classroom setting but believe the ideas and spirit of social movements require impassioned speech.  They otherwise stand by their comments made during lectures. 

In my determination, this course is not an American history course or a course on the American Revolution. Its purpose is not to present historical arguments in favor of or opposing the American Revolution. The course premise is to analyze historical and modern revolutions and mass movements using historical and sociological perspectives and to place such movements in a context of scholarly work related to social movement.

Student Input:  The faculty for “Resistance and Revolution” value student input and student opinions and do not take actions to stifle participation or the presentation of opposing viewpoints. In fact, student comments can be heard throughout the audio presented on The College Fix website.  Additionally, student engagement and action are crucial aspects of a course that teaches organization, rhetoric, planning, collaboration, and critical thinking. 

Diverse Perspectives:  UCCS welcomes diverse perspectives, and, in doing so, will address controversial issues.  I continue to reinforce to all concerned the need to use appropriate rhetorical approaches when communicating on subjects that can give rise to debate and can be readily misinterpreted.  

As the Chancellor, I am convening a task force to further explicate the ethical issues of student faculty interactions in the classroom and in a telemediated world.

Further information will be posted as it becomes available.