If you disagree with something a professor says in class, you’re out of luck.
That’s because according to UCF policy, when professors speak, it is acceptable for them to say whatever they want.
University faculty members are allowed this “academic freedom” because of the university’s Collective Bargaining Agreement between faculty and school administration.
The agreement defines academic freedom as “the freedom to teach, both in and outside the classroom, to conduct research and to publish the results of that research.”
This freedom includes the right for faculty to discuss their own subjects frankly without the fear of censorship, to address institutional policies or actions and to express their personal opinions on any social, political or economic public interest opinions “without institutional discipline or restraint due to the content of those messages.”
“Academic freedom is the hallmark of a higher education institution, where new ideas and free thought can flourish,” said UCF spokeswoman Christine Dellert. “But with it comes responsibility, and UCF works hard to ensure an environment of respect for all students, faculty and staff.”
The CBA establishes guidelines for this academic responsibility.
“University faculty are members of a learned profession,” the agreement reads. “As scholars and educators, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances.”
Through this agreement, faculty must uphold ethical standards in their disciplines, adhere to their proper roles as teachers and mentors, respect students, staff and colleagues as individuals, respect the integrity of the evaluation process by evaluating students and staff fairly, and observe the regulations of the university.
But some students say that they’ve taken classes with professors who have shirked their academic responsibilities.
Alexia Walter, a freshman social psychology major, said that although she’s never been insulted personally by something a professor has said, she has had a professor who said things that could be taken offensively.
Walter said that one of her professors announced to her class that all religions are for bigots.
“As an atheist, I didn’t feel personally attacked, but I saw how people tried to defend themselves and their beliefs,” she said. “But he would respond with degrading comments and insults, implying that they all have low intelligence levels and that’s why they believe in imaginary gods.”
Despite the offensive comments, however, Walter said she thinks that professors should be allowed to say whatever they want in the classroom.
“I believe professors should be able to say what they want as long as it does not personally attack or discriminate any individuals,” she said. “Oftentimes, expressing views that are contradicting to the norm are necessary to make a point during a lecture.”
Samantha Warren, a freshman double majoring in graphic design and advertising-public relations, agreed with Walter’s sentiment.
“At this point in our education, we are choosing to come to college,” Warren said. “Professors are in an authority position and should be able to use any teaching method they want, which includes saying potentially offensive things.”
She added that even though she has had a professor who swore a lot and called students stupid, she doesn’t think the university should punish faculty members for these types of comments.
“Welcome to the real world. It happens,” she said.
While many students said that their classmates should just ignore faculty comments they find offensive, others said that if the remarks get too out of line, the university should step in.
“My advice for students upset or offended by a professor is if it only happens once, to try to move past it,” Walter said. “But if it is a continuous thing every class, to go report that professor to a higher authority.”
For students looking to report a concern, there are a multitude of different university resources available.
Students can use the University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk Office’s IntegrityLine to anonymously report their grievances, or they can file a report with the Just Knights Response Team to address any bias they might have experienced from a faculty member.