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National Study of Faculty Attitudes Toward Academic Freedom

African teacher standing with book and reading lecture for students at university
A new study of academic freedom inspired by Paul Lazarsfeld’s 1958 research
  • Client
    American Association of Colleges and Universities and American Association of University Professors
  • Dates
    August 2023 – June 2024

Problem

Claims and definitions of academic freedom are increasingly coming under question.

Colleges and universities have often been viewed as havens for freedom of thought and inquiry. Some institutions even codify that freedom in their missions. But as our society has become increasingly polarized, claims of academic freedom—and even the definition of academic freedom—have come into question from inside and outside academia.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) are partnering with NORC to refine a national study of faculty focused on academic freedom, freedom of expression, self-censorship, and diverse political viewpoints and attitudes, inspired by Columbia University professor Paul Lazarsfeld’s 1958 study of the attitudes of social science faculty during the McCarthy era. NORC collected the 1958 survey data.

Solution

NORC will survey faculty at American colleges and universities about academic freedom.

NORC is collaborating with AAC&U and AAUP to develop and conduct a national survey of faculty viewpoints about a variety of dimensions at their institutions, including academic freedom, freedom of expression, self-censorship, respect for diverse political views and values, and openness to and willingness to practice civil discourse.

To do so, NORC, AAC&U, and AAUP examined Paul Lazarsfeld’s original 1958 survey measures to understand McCarthyism-related experiences and perceptions of social science faculty. The teams identified conceptual and methodological dimensions of the original survey to both retain and update to fit contemporary higher education and sociopolitical contexts. To test the effectiveness of the survey refinements, NORC conducted a series of cognitive interviews with a sample of faculty from diverse geographical and higher education contexts and used that evidence to inform final survey refinements.

Result

Findings will yield insights about the climate for academic freedom across U.S. higher education. 

NORC will deliver data and analyses. The AAC&U and AAUP will disseminate the report and findings more broadly. 

 

Are You a Study Participant?

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FAQ for Study Participants

The intent of the survey is to collect data on faculty attitudes at two-year and four-year American universities and colleges to assess academic freedom, freedom of expression, and diversity of political views and values in higher education.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) are sponsoring this survey. They contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to administer the survey and collect the data. 

You were selected to participate in this important survey due to your institutional role. 

We will send you a personalized link to the survey. The survey is available online and is formatted for all computers and mobile devices (computers preferred).

 

If you believe that you are in the study population but have not received a survey link, please contact us for assistance by email at academicfreedomsurvey@norc.org

NORC will collect data on faculty attitudes at participating schools along with basic demographic data.

Your participation is encouraged but not required. Likewise, should you choose to participate, you may skip any questions that you do not wish to answer.

The survey will take approximately 15-25 minutes to complete. If you are unable to complete it in one sitting, the survey instrument will save your progress so you can return to it later.

Individual responses will not be disseminated. The AAC&U and AAUP will disseminate the report and findings more broadly. 

NORC at the University of Chicago is a nonpartisan research organization that has studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, NORC partners with government, corporate and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objective research and expertise to inform the critical decisions facing society.

If you have questions or concerns about your participation in this survey, please email academicfreedomsurvey@norc.org.  

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