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Sciences-Po Grenoble: what does academic freedom cover?

► What does academic freedom cover?

As underlined by law professor Olivier Beaud (1), “academic freedom” is a term imported from Germany and the United States. ” It is part of university freedoms which also include university franchises inherited from the Middle Ages, police franchises (the police cannot intervene in a university without the approval of its presidency) and jurisdiction (a teacher-researcher cannot be revoked only by his peers). “

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This academic freedom, which guarantees academics independence vis-à-vis the authorities, is based in particular on the freedom of research (and therefore of the choice of subjects of study). It also covers the freedom of education. ” Within the framework of the course entrusted to him, the academic is free to choose content and methods. Unlike his elementary or secondary colleagues, he is not inspected », Specifies Olivier Beaud. ” Finally, the academic enjoys freedom of expression, in the courses he teaches as well as in his writings. “.

► How does the law define this freedom?

Academic freedom is above all defined by customs », Emphasizes Olivier Beaud, even if texts address some of its aspects. The Faure law of 1968 thus recognizes the freedom of expression of a teacher-researcher. Likewise, the education code, in its article L952-2, provides that “ lTeacher-researchers, teachers and researchers enjoy full independence and freedom of expression in the exercise of their teaching functions and their research activities “.

► What are the limits?

This same article of the education code specifies that this independence of teacher-researchers is expressed ” subject to the reservations imposed on them, in accordance with university traditions and the provisions of this code, the principles of tolerance and objectivity “. ” In the event of a violation, the president of the university may refer the matter to the disciplinary section of the institution. », Indicates the former rector Bernard Toulemonde. ” But extremely rare are the referrals of this body, composed of peers, which really relate to a misuse of academic freedom.. “

And to mention the ban on teaching for eight months, imposed in 2017 by the disciplinary section of the University of Grenoble, on a professor who had made inappropriate remarks with a sexual connotation towards students. A sanction invalidated on appeal by the National Council for Higher Education and Research (CNESER), then finally reinstated by the Council of State. For Bernard Toulemonde, the professor could not invoke the protection of freedom of expression to address his students in this way. ” Criminal justice can also set limits on academic freedom in the event that an academic makes racist or anti-Semitic comments. », Adds the former rector.

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The fact remains that the university tradition consists above all in regulation by peers, as Françoise Lambert, national secretary of the Sgen-CFDT, reminds us. ” To participate in conferences or publish in journals, you must submit your work to a reading committee, which assesses the scientific nature of our work.. “


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