Resolution 08-03 Ad-Hoc Senate Committee Resolution on Southeast Missouri State University Administrative Response following the campus production Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You
FACULTY SENATE SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY
FACULTY SENATE RESOLUTION 08-03
Approved by the Faculty Senate
December 3rd, 2008
AD-HOC SENATE COMMITTEE RESOLUTION ON THE SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSE FOLLOWING THE CAMPUS PRODUCTION OF SISTER MARY IGNATIUS EXPLAINS IT ALL FOR YOU
1- WHEREAS: the Mission Statement of Southeast Missouri State University asserts that: “The university, through teaching and scholarship, challenges students to extend their intellectual capacities, interests, and creative abilities; develop their talents; and acquire a lifelong enthusiasm for learning. Students benefit from a relevant, extensive, and thorough general education; professional and liberal arts and sciences curricular opportunities; and real world experiences. By emphasizing student-centered and experiential learning, the University prepares individuals to participate responsibly in a diverse and technologically-advanced world and in this and other ways contributes to the development of the social, cultural, and economic life of the region, state, and nation,”1 and
2- WHEREAS: the Faculty Handbook Statement on Academic Freedom asserts that: “by affirmation of the Board of Regents, Southeast Missouri State University joins numerous other Universities and learned societies in endorsing the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure promulgated by the Association of American University Professors as a basic description of academic freedom.” Additionally, “the University endorses academic freedom as essential to the search for truth and its free expression, both in teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. From an instructional basis, academic freedom is fundamental for the protection of the rights of faculty in teaching and of the student in the pursuit of advanced learning,”2 and
3- WHEREAS: one of the express purposes of experimental theater is to challenge conventional boundaries in ways that often incorporate content that may be deemed controversial, and whereas all patrons were advised of the nature of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You prior to its performance via signage stating: “Adult Content, Socio-Religious Satire, loud gunshots in this production,” and
4- WHEREAS: theatrical and artistic productions and displays are academically equivalent to classroom and thesis presentations required in other disciplines and programs, many of which are open to the university and general communities, but still represent essential curricular components in the disciplines, and
5- WHEREAS: rather than defend the independence and right of the university to make its own selections regarding the performances to be offered to the public as part of season ticket packets3, the administration encouraged such demonstrations by apologizing for the performance and offering to reimburse ticket holders, and
6- WHEREAS: rather than defend the academic and artistic freedom of faculty and students to select the content of artistic performance as they deem appropriate for achieving the academic and artistic goals of their curricula, the Administration seems willing to avoid controversial content by pressuring students, faculty and staff to restrict future artistic selections, and
7- WHEREAS: rather than defend the academic and artistic freedom of faculty and students to select the content of artistic performance as they deem appropriate for achieving the academic and artistic goals of their curricula, the rapid response of the administration to complaints transmitted to the university from major contributors to the university (especially the River Campus) creates the impression that by their contributions individuals are buying the right to influence the academic and artistic freedom of the institution, and
8- WHEREAS: this incident raises questions regarding the commitment of Southeast Missouri State University to the principles of academic and artistic freedom of faculty and students in teaching, creativity, and research,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
I that the Southeast Missouri State University Faculty Senate, acting in defense of the academic and artistic freedom of faculty and students, endorses the right of all university departments to determine what activities shall occur within their courses and programs and recognizes that in the School of the Visual and Performing Arts this right extends to determining what appropriate artistic events shall be offered at the university, in accordance with their perception of curricular needs, without suffering interference from the administration or consideration of marketing concerns, and
II that the Southeast Missouri State University Faculty Senate, acting in defense of the academic and artistic freedom of faculty and students, protests the response of the Administration of the institution to complaints regarding the campus production of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You and the upcoming Spring 2009 production of Angels in America. The Administration’s response fails first and foremost to defend the fundamental principles that lie at the very core of an academic institution – the rights of academic and artistic freedom.
1 Southeast Missouri State University Faculty Handbook Chapter 1: Organization and Governance; Mission Statement.
2 Southeast Missouri State University Handbook Chapter 2: Academic Freedom.
3 Letter from Southeast Missouri State University Provost Dr. Jane Stephens to Southeast Missourian, November 9th 2008, Refund offer for performances