On Academic Freedom

A Statement by the AAR Board of Directors

Approved by the AAR Board of Directors on July 12, 2019

In November 2006, the American Academy of Religion’s Board of Directors approved a resolution affirming the academic freedom of its members. This resolution was further amended by the AAR Board of Directors in February 2016. The current resolution outlines the AAR’s understanding of academic freedom in the three traditional areas of professional and scholarly duties: teaching, research, and service to members’ home institutions and the larger publics we serve. The document also provided a summary of procedures for advocating for members whose academic freedom may have been violated. Since 2013, the AAR has issued seventeen statements on matters relevant to supporting academic freedom worldwide as set forth in the Board resolution.
Recently, however, requests have intensified in number and frequency for AAR statements on a variety of issues related to academic freedom. The AAR Board of Directors wishes to acknowledge that the increase in requests for statements coincides with rapidly escalating trends of actions—governmental, social, and personal—that threaten the principles of academic freedom as set forth in the 2016 resolution. Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, white supremacy, sexism, discrimination against LGBTQI peoples, and labor and workplace safety issues have all intensified across sectors, institutions, and nationalities. The Board recognizes that its membership now is facing an unprecedented set of challenges to their exercise of academic freedom and doing so in the context of limited resources, eroded faculty governance, the diminishment of faculty status and work-place benefits, and hostility towards the expression of religious affiliation.
The AAR remains steadfast in facing this onslaught of challenges to academic freedom in general and the study and public understanding of religion in particular. The AAR board will be regularly monitoring this difficult environment and reviewing, on an ongoing basis, its policies and practices.