Intellectual Freedom Committee Statement on Academic Freedom Banner

Statement on Academic Freedom from the Virginia Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee 

Recent protests across Virginia's university campuses regarding the conflict in Gaza have highlighted concerns about intellectual freedom in higher education.  The implications for free speech and access to information are significant.

The Virginia Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee staunchly supports intellectual freedom, equitable access to information, and the free exchange of ideas as follows:

1.  Reaffirm Students' Right to Peaceful Protest: Students have the right to peaceful protest and expression of moral concerns. However, university administrators have the responsibility to publicize content-neutral, time, place, and manner rules for protest so other students can pursue their academic studies unimpeded.

2.  Distinguish Between Critique and Discrimination: Criticism of any government’s or political entity’s decisions, or military actions, or of university policies should not in themselves be equated with bigotry. It is crucial for university administrators and community leaders to discern between legitimate critique and discriminatory rhetoric.

3.  Ensure Academic Freedom: Instructors should not face penalties for assigning students reading or viewing material that presents diverse perspectives, including those critical or supportive of governmental policies or historical actions. Individuals should not be labeled as hostile to a population for recommending critical perspectives. Intellectual inquiry thrives on exploring differing viewpoints and accessing the widest range of information possible.

4.  Ensure Access to Information: University libraries must serve as repositories of a wide range of viewpoints, providing students with the broadest possible access to information. The integrity of libraries as centers for student learning and access to information must be protected.

We urge educators, administrators, policymakers, and the community at large to uphold intellectual freedom everywhere, especially in higher education. We encourage the public to seek information and utilize libraries to delve deeper into the issues prompting protests. Let us continue to cultivate an environment that nurtures critical thinking, robust dialogue, and the free exchange of ideas, safeguarding our institutions of higher learning as bastions of intellectual inquiry and academic excellence.

Virginia Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee

For more information, please visit the statements on free speech and academic freedom issued by the organizations below:

Please email any questions or concerns to [email protected].