At the “Academic and Intellectual Freedom Climate on Campus…” program at ALA, Jim Neal of Columbia University presented the audience with a list of 24 threats to these freedoms. With his permission, the list is reproduced below. Many of these threats are familiar to most of us, especially those related to the USA Patriot Act and to copyright law. Others, such as #7, #11, #14, #20, and #23, may not be as obvious. The possibility that Institutional Review Boards can “limit, alter, or undermine faculty research” (#20) stimulated discussion at the program as audience members expressed doubt that IRB’s are a threat to freedoms. Jim maintained that there can be biases among IRB members, just as such biases exist in editorial review boards. These are the 24 threats:
1. Modification of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
Expansion of nonconsensual release of student records to government officials
2. Modification of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Expansion of definition of business records to embrace library, bookstore and internet service provider transactions.
3. Colleges and universities asked to permit government agents, without court order, to intercept the wire or electronic communications of persons regarded as “computer trespassers.”
4. Expansion of surveillance, wiretaps, search warrants, pen/trap orders and subpoenas for access to information about individuals with reduced judicial checks and balances.
5. Expanded definition of “domestic terrorism” and potential impact on legitimate protest activity and threatened opening of surveillance of campus political and religious organizations.
6. Ability of U.S. courts to use intelligence obtained by foreign governments in ways that would otherwise be illegal and would limit international travel and communication of faculty and students.
7. Students and scholars from designated world areas will be subject to extraordinary surveillance and harassment, affecting ability to recruit and retain international students and researchers at U.S. colleges.
8. Introduction of video surveillance cameras and biometrics technologies to monitor and observe individual activities.
9. Harmful to Minors laws and ability of students to access information electronically and use academic library resources without parental consent or filters.
10. Expanding use of web pages, blogs, email, text messages, social forums raise new concerns about intellectual freedom and actions by governments and universities.
11. Globalization of education and research teams extends work of U.S. students and faculty into arenas with very different legal, cultural, and moral standards.
12. Political biases of teacher can undermine open debate in the classroom and threaten students with risk of embarrassment or punitive action.
13. Rapid increase in adjunct and contract faculty who may not enjoy same academic freedoms and protections as full-time, tenured faculty.
14. Creation of mass digitized databases of published content with risks of removal of content and monitoring of individual use.
15. Removal of books from library collections, content or links from publisher databases and organizational web sites because of objections raised. Or failure to develop collections or select materials in balanced way.
16. Copyright balance being eroded and access to information being reduced by:
a. Technological Protection Measures/Anti-Circumvention
b. Limitations on Fair Use
c. Increased Personal and Institutional Liabilities
d. Terns of Protection Expanded
e. Private Law of Contract Dominant
f. Public Domain Constrained
17. Government information being withdrawn from agency web sites and removed from depository collections, thus reducing flow of information to public.
18. Refusal of publishers or editorial boards to accept manuscripts on controversial topics and the future viability of the peer review process.
19. Corporate or military funding of faculty research can alter priorities, influence results, limit distribution and raise concerns about integrity of scholarship.
20. Institutional review boards focused on human subject, treatment of animals, and other compliance monitoring can limit, alter, or undermine faculty research.
21. Government contract offices are asserting control over research results and demanding right to review before publication.
22. Federal funding agencies are raising concerns about “sensitive” research results being disclosed, creating a new form of “classified” information.
23. Open access policies and institutional copyright policies may limit publishing and distribution rights of faculty.
24. Slippery Slopes:
Legally Permissible versus Morally Responsible
Individual Rights versus Institutional interests
Culture Wars/Speech Codes/Political Correctness
Computer Appropriate Use Policies
Community Standards/Family Values
–Doris Ann Sweet