BB&T grant prompts faculty to consider academic freedom and integrity

November 21, 2009
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We congratulate the college for obtaining the BB & T grant since it provides the economics department with useful funding and will also provide financial support through scholarships and skill-enhancement training to several students in the Principled Problem Solving program, as well as funding for Guilford to host several speakers from the corporate world to address economics-related issues.Some community members initially opposed the grant because it places a stipulation on the curriculum and funds a course on the moral foundations of capitalism, while BB&T itself benefits from the capitalistic system. Some students and faculty members worried that the course or the curriculum and the content would be determined by a bank, instead of Guilford professors.

Others worried that a course on capitalism, which requires students to read “Atlas Shrugged,” a modern capitalistic novel by Ayn Rand, would solely teach the moral value of capitalism, excluding the problems that capitalism can cause.

In light of these concerns, the Clerk’s Committee proposed an amendment to the Faculty Handbook on Academic Freedom that would forbid the college from accepting grants that place a stipulation on curriculum content.

The faculty met last week to debate this amendment and used the BB&T case as an example in determining whether the proposal should be approved.

The faculty meeting exhibited social and moral responsibility, providing an example of a portion of the community ensuring that the college is living up to its values, namely integrity. The faculty members debated diplomatically, examining the facts and implications of the grant in a commitment to preserving academic integrity.

Following Quaker business process, the faculty came to a consensus that the grant would not limit a professor’s teaching freedoms, due to the flexible nature of the single stipulation, which does not determine how the Ayn Rand text should be taught and does not place stipulations on the other texts that the professor can choose for the course.

The faculty members therefore decided to send the proposal back to the Clerk’s Committee to be revised, with more flexible language to be included. The faculty members set a precedent that will help determine which grants can be accepted in the future. They have also set a precedent that enables future professors to fight for their academic freedom.


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