Civility and Academic Freedom: Who Defines the Former (and How) May Imperil Rights to the Latter

Theodore W. McDonald, Boise State University
James D. Stockton, Boise State University
R. Eric Landrum, Boise State University


An alarming occurrence in academia involves the discipline of faculty, under the guise of violating civility or collegiality codes, for engaging in what should be protected academic free speech. This often occurs when unprincipled and/or corporate-minded administrators seek to punish or dissuade faculty from challenging or questioning their decisions or policy initiatives, or for speaking up about policy violations or lack of due process. The ambiguity of terms such as civility and collegiality, when selectively defined by administrators, can be used to stifle, dissuade or punish academic free speech. Ways to identify and address these problems are presented.