Academic Freedom

With the exception of the first paragraph defining the scope of its coverage at West Valley-Mission Community College District, this policy is an almost verbatim rewriting of the California State University system's statement on Academic Freedom, with the name, "West Valley-Mission Community College District" inserted where needed.  The CSU statement of Academic Freedom is, in turn, substantially based on the 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure, while their statement on Professional Ethics is an exact transcription of the 1966 AAUP Statement on Professional Ethics.   

Faculty Ethics 

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges adopted the “American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Ethics Statement" in 1987 and in April 1988 released a paper entitled, "Why the Academic Senate has adopted the AAUP Ethics Statement."   The AAUP statement and explanation for its adoption have been quite helpful to local senates in discussions of ethics. However, community college faculty faces situations that are distinctly different from those faced by university professors. Furthermore, since the time the ethics statement was adopted by the Academic  Senate,  AB  1725  has  become  law,  and  the  bill's  redefinition  of  the community college faculty profession has resulted in an abundance of ethical questions regarding faculty roles, responsibilities, and obligations.   Hence, the purpose of this paper is to offer expanded discussions on the AAUP Ethics Statement focusing on issues that typically face faculty in California's Community Colleges. 

The AAUP ethics document consists of five statements outlining faculty responsibilities to their disciplines, students, colleagues, institutions, and communities.   The text of these statements is included in Section II of this Handbook.  It serves as an excellent foundation in principles upon which decisions of ethical behavior can be based. 

Those principles are expanded in Section III in the areas of scholarly competence, honest academic conduct of students, academic standards, cultural and gender sensitivity, the free pursuit of learning, avoiding exploitation of students, academic freedom, and contributing to the profession. 

AAUP Ethics Statement 

Professors, guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them.  Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it.  To this end professors   devote   their   energies   to   developing   and   improving   their   scholarly competence. They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge.  They practice intellectual honesty.   Although professors may follow subsidiary interests, these interests must never seriously hamper or compromise their freedom of inquiry. 

As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students.  They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline.  Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors.   Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student's true merit.   They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.  They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them.  They protect their academic freedom. 

As colleagues, professors have obligations that derive from common membership in the community of scholars.   Professors do not discriminate against or harass colleagues. They respect and defend the free inquiry of associates. In the exchange of criticism and ideas professors show due respect for the opinions of others.  Professors acknowledge academic debt and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues. Professors accept their share of faculty responsibilities for the governance of their institution. 

As members of an academic institution, professors seek above all to be effective teachers and scholars. Although professors observe the stated regulations of the institution, provided the regulations do not contravene academic freedom, they maintain their right to criticize and seek revision.  Professors give due regard to their paramount responsibilities within their institutions in determining the amount and character of work done outside it. 

When considering the interruption or termination of their service, professors recognize the effect of their decision upon the program of the institution and give due notice of their intentions. 

As members of their community, professors have the rights and obligations of other citizens.   Professors measure the urgency of these obligations in the light of their responsibilities to their subject, to their students, to their profession, and to their institution.   When they speak or act as private persons, they avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for their college or university.  As citizens engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, professors have a particular obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom. 

Expanding the AAUP Ethics Statement 

References in the following sections raise questions about how faculty interact with all members of the college community in carrying out their professional responsibilities and statements specific to students or colleagues should be interpreted as applying to all other individuals. 

Developing Scholarly Competence 

Every discipline requires scholarship.  Faculty must keep up with new developments in their disciplines and in teaching methods just as doctors are obligated to keep abreast of new developments in medicine and attorneys are required to know evolving laws.  It is a faculty member's ongoing obligation to pursue professional and academic development. 

In addition, faculty has the obligation to pursue the truth. The intellectual virtues of being openminded, fair, honest and objective in the consideration of differing views, being thorough in research, avoiding the manipulation of data, and reaching a well- reasoned viewpoint should all be fostered within the intellectual character of the faculty member. 

These attitudes toward learning are precisely what faculty are trying to get students to acquire, therefore, faculty are obligated to teach and lead by example.  Modeling and teaching critical thinking and attempting to instill in students intellectual virtues which foster critical thinking are key responsibilities for faculty. 

In other words, modeling a democratic style rather than an authoritarian one is more appropriate.  Instead of trying to control the beliefs, opinions and values of students, encouraging pluralistic dialogue is an ethical necessity.  Teaching students to respect differing views and helping them to benefit from the wisdom often found in ideas with which they disagree can provide a profound learning experience. 

Maintaining Honest Academic Conduct 

Colleges should have a policy on honest academic conduct, developed by the Academic Senate working with the student leadership.  Faculty are obliged to make sure that such a policy exists, is published, and provides appropriate due process standards.  In addition, faculty needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy toward academic dishonesty.  Students who behave dishonestly should face retributive consequences consistent with the institution's policies. 

Faculty have an obligation to prevent academic dishonesty by ensuring that students do their own work.  Types of dishonesty include copying from others, turning in work that is not the student's own, and using references without appropriate citation.  Faculty should provide a definition of acceptable academic conduct on the first day of class through discussion and in writing.  An essential strategy for preventing academic dishonesty is to set up testing situations that minimize the potential for misconduct. 

Finally, there are rules and expectations of proper academic behavior that should be articulated and taught within the framework of the respective academic disciplines. Respect for students requires that all be held to the same standard of conduct.  Holding students to different standards is demeaning and insulting. 

Ensuring Cultural and Gender Sensitivity: Respecting Students as Individuals 

Respecting students as individuals is an ethical imperative for faculty.  All students, as individuals, deserve the respect of faculty regardless of their cultural background, ethnicity, race, gender, religious beliefs, political ideologies, disability, sexual preference, age, or socioeconomic status. 

One of the challenges of being an educator is to reach students at their current point of understanding.  When relating to students as individuals, faculty must recognize the unique circumstances of each student's life.  In particular, some students may possess learning styles which hinder them from benefiting from traditional methods of instruction.  Faculty have the responsibility to use all possible effective pedagogical tools to reach those students. 

Students look to faculty as role models.  Not only must faculty exhibit an appreciation and respect for students from all backgrounds, but it is also imperative that they teach and model behavior which is tolerant and shows appreciation and respect for others. Affirming individual students' abilities, strengthening their self-identities, and assisting them to reach their full potential are qualities of an effective faculty member. 

Encouraging the Free Pursuit of Learning: Securing Student Access and Success 

The concept of a community college as defined by the California Community Colleges' Master Plan is one of the best examples of an egalitarian educational model of a system of higher education in the world.  One could say that the idea of open access is the quintessential expression of democracy in education and that open access exemplifies the free pursuit of learning. 

As participants in the development of educational policies at our institutions, we must remain diligent to protect students' right to freely pursue their education, watching closely to prevent barriers to access, particularly to those from historically under-represented groups.  These barriers may include restrictive or difficult to accomplish admission procedures, lack of access to counseling, or unjustified prerequisites.  Faculty may incorrectly assume that references, examples, or methodologies they use are part of the students' experience or cultural heritage.  Methods should be sought which can make learning more achievable to students.  Faculty have an ethical responsibility as educators to reduce as much as possible all barriers to the pursuit of education and to seek new methods to assure students' success. 

Avoiding Exploitation of Students 

Exploitation of students by faculty members can take many guises.  Be it for personal financial gain, sexual gratification, or any other reason, such exploitation is totally unacceptable.  It is a fundamental ethical principle that individuals possessing power and authority should not use their advantaged position for their own gain or to advance their own self-interest.   

In light of the fact that the educational profession is one in which trust between faculty member and student maximizes the results of the learning experience, it is especially reprehensible for faculty to use their power and authority for such self- gratification or self-gain. 

Faculty have power over students by virtue of their position.  There is no greater violation of that power than when a faculty member exploits this relationship with students. Students may have fears and insecurities about their abilities and what the future holds for them.  They may tend to view faculty with a sense of awe that is based on a projected expectation rather than personal experience of proven expertise or trustworthiness.  They tend to trust faculty beyond areas of academic expertise.   To take advantage of individuals under these conditions is ethically inexcusable. 

For example, in cases where some students are being evaluated on the basis of academic standards while others are being evaluated on the basis of responsiveness to inappropriate advances or where personal services or favors are traded for grades, privilege or recognition, one can easily see that such behavior is a violation of ethics.  Students must be evaluated solely on the basis of academic standards. 

Faculty must be cognizant of the possible perceptions and interpretations their students may formulate in response to faculty-student interactions.  Therefore, faculty members are obligated to create a learning environment free of insensitivity, hostility, and coercion. Faculty must realize that such an environment often can be more contingent upon the perceptions of students than on the intentions of faculty. 

Establishing Academic Standards 

California Community Colleges have the dual mission of preparing individuals for work and citizenship.  Successful careers depend on acquiring the skills, knowledge and abilities to perform competently in the work place.  To prepare students for the world of work and to avoid misleading them as to what they can expect once they leave the campus, it is important to evaluate students in a manner which is consistent with the academic standards of the discipline. 

Academic standards should be determined in the context of one's academic discipline by the community of scholars within the discipline.  They should not differ significantly from one faculty member to another within the same discipline.  If, for example, there is significant variation in grading criteria and standards among faculty who teach courses that are   the prerequisites for courses further in a sequence, then clearly students, subsequent courses, and the disciplines, are harmed.  While the mastery that faculty have of their own discipline and scholarship entitles them to the freedom of the presentation of their subject matter, it is unethical for a faculty member to persistently interject material unrelated to the course such that the instructor fails to offer the agreed upon subject matter of the course. 

Maintaining Academic Freedom 

By nature and definition, a college campus embraces the value of academic freedom.  In order to pursue truth, survey the marketplace of ideas, and acquire knowledge and understanding, both faculty and students must have the freedom to express their views and be safe from reprisals.  However, there are obligations which accompany academic freedom. 

The first obligation in maintaining academic freedom is to create a learning environment which fosters the free exchange of ideas.  In other words, faculty should encourage the expression of diverse views and the understanding of those views. 

The second obligation which is required to maintain academic freedom is to clearly distinguish when one is speaking for one's self and when one is speaking as a representative of the educational institution.  The classroom in particular should not be used as a forum for the advancement of personal causes.  Our obligation is to inform, not to indoctrinate.  If a stormy political issue arises, we can certainly encourage a lively discussion of all facets of the situation.  However, we cannot present just our view or advocate only our own position unless we do so in the context of debate or other such pedagogical structures where opposing views may be presented. 

As members of a profession that has a high degree of autonomy and flexibility in determining how work is accomplished, it is important that faculty discharge all of their responsibilities conscientiously. 

A recommendation on a framework and processes for developing local faculty professional expectations and accountability processes is currently under consideration by the Academic Senate's Educational Policies Committee.

Attendance and Census Rosters

Download the Attendance and Census Rosters policy.

Prep Week Policy

Final Exam Preparatory Week ("Prep Week") is the week immediately preceding the initial day of the final examination period of a full-term, regular academic semester. Classes are held according to the regular semester schedule, but there will be no final examinations or other major exams scheduled during this week. Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the Office of Instruction and may only be granted when scheduling an exam during Prep Week directly benefits students (e.g. lab practical exams that would otherwise have to be scheduled during finals week, in addition to the lecture final). Faculty may, at their discretion, make an arrangement with an individual student if the student has a compelling need. Student activities are allowed, but only insofar as they benefit students and do not require mandatory attendance or extra-curricular work on the part of students. Prep Week constraints do not apply to late-start and short-term courses.

Distance Education

Download the Distance Education policy.

Drug-Free Schools and Community Act
Drug-Free Schools and Community Act (anchor here)
The District prohibits the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of alcohol and other drugs by students and employees on the institution’s property or at institutionally sponsored activities as defined in the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendment of 1989 (Public Law 101226).  General and specific information and assistance are provided by the Student Health Center and the Counseling Program for students and the Human Resources Office for employees.  West Valley-Mission College students and employees are subject to sanctions as defined by the Student Handbook, Board Policies, and other local, state, and federal laws.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (anchor here)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, Section 438, Public Law 93-380), as amended, requires educational institutions to provide: access to official educational records directly related to the student; an opportunity for a hearing to challenge such records on the grounds that they are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise inappropriate; that the college must obtain the written consent of the student before releasing personally identifiable information about the student except to those persons and agencies specified by the Act; and that these rights extend to present and former students of the college.

  • Education records generally include documents and information related to admissions, enrollment in classes, grades, and related academic information.
  • Educational records will be made available for inspection and review during regular working hours after receiving a written request from the student. If a student wishes to challenge any information in the educational record, the student shall review their request with the Director of Admission and Records. The Director will inform the student of the process and if needed assist the student in correcting the formal record.
  • The Act provides that the college may release certain types of Directory Information, unless the student submits in writing to the Records Officer that certain or all such information not be released without his/her consent. Directory Information at this college includes:
  1. student name and city of residence,
  2. participation in recognized activities and sports,
  3. dates of attendance,
  4. degrees and awards received,
  5. the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended
  6. height and weight of members of athletic teams.
  • A copy of the college policy, The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, Section 438 (P.L. 93-380) and other pertinent information is available for review and inspection in the Records office during normal working hours.

Students have not only the right to an education, but to the rights of citizenship as well; therefore, no student shall be deprived of equal treatment and equal access to educational programs, due process, the presumption of innocence prior to proof otherwise, free expression and association, or privacy of thought.

Students bring to college various interests and values previously acquired and they develop new interests as members of an academic community. They shall be free to organize and join groups, in the pursuit of those interests, subject only to regulations and procedures which are intended to preserve the integrity of the district and which are consistent with constitutional guarantees.

In keeping with the ideals of a democracy, students shall be granted the rights and responsibilities of self-government. In the activities of student groups and the conduct of student government, discrimination based on race, ethnic background, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or physical handicap shall be expressly prohibited.

Students and recognized student organizations shall be free to examine and discuss questions of interest to them and to express their opinions publicly and privately without fear of reprisal. They shall be free to support legal causes by orderly means that do not disrupt the operation of the college. College documents are subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Public Law 93-980).

Attendant upon the right guaranteed to each student are certain responsibilities, which are respect for the rights of others, acceptance of properly constituted authority, and compliance with the policies, regulations, and procedures of the district. Each student bears full responsibility for his or her actions.

Specific complaints, questions, or concerns may be directed to the Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, (408) 741-2060, or the Mission College responsible officer, Vice President of Student Services, (408) 855-5197.

Grading Policy
Grading Policy (anchor here)

Faculty are expected to keep accurate and complete student records.  When submitted at the end of the semester, it is recommended that grade or roll books show at least three substantiating grades in addition to the final grade.   Grade/roll books should also include dates of withdrawal, and the "a" symbol for absences.  All grade rosters must be filed at the completion of each course or by the deadline published by the Vice President of Student Services. The grade/roll books are historical documents indicating student participation and performance.   They are also used to support course and attendance audit reviews.  

Professional Development
Professional Development 

The Mission College Staff Development Plan has been formulated in response to the ongoing need for training programs and activities to support the professional growth of the college community.  It is based on the concept that faculty, classified staff, and administration — as a whole — are responsible for the delivery and maintenance of a quality collegiate program that meets the needs of all students.  These needs can only be met by a staff that stays current and demonstrates enthusiasm for the education and service of their students.  Therefore, the major goals of this plan are:

  • To support the instructional needs of faculty
  • To enhance communication among all areas of service
  • To increase job satisfaction
  • To facilitate professional and personal development
  • To maintain a dynamic organizational structure
  • To enrich the college community
  • To support the District and Colleges Strategic Planning

These goals are accomplished through a variety of activities offered by a comprehensive Staff Development program. This program is formulated and executed by the Organizational and Professional Development Committee in response to the annual needs assessment of the college community.

Smoking and the Use of E-Cigarette Devices on Campus Policy
Smoking and the Use of E-Cigarette Devices on Campus Policy

The West Valley-Mission Community College Board of Trustees have approved both Mission and West Valley College(s) to be Smoke-Free and Vapor-Free, effective April 21, 2015.  Board Policy says: “Smoking and the use of e-cigarette devices are prohibited in all indoor locations within the District. Smoking and the use of e-cigarette devices are prohibited in any enclosed place of employment on campus, including lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, stairwells, and restrooms that are a structural part of any building that is a place of employment. Smoking and the use of e-cigarette devices are prohibited in all areas of the Mission and West Valley campuses except in parking lot areas that are at least twenty-five (25) feet away from buildings and pathways.”

If you see a smoker in the Smoke-Free/Vapor-Free zone, approach the person and draw his/her attention to the No Smoking/Vaping sign and ask them politely to stop.  If there is no sign available, then cite that there is a district policy on Smoking and Vaping.

Advise the smoker/vaper that smoking/vaping in the Smoke-Free/Vapor-Free zone is a violation of the policy, and that smoking and vaping are permitted only in the parking lots (except Disabled Parking areas).  Explain that the policy is to ensure that there is a safe and healthy environment for all. If you find repeated offenses in the same location, please contact the District Police by calling 408-299-2311.