Statement in Support of Civil Liberties and Academic Freedom

Issued by the Divisional Council
Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate
December 2001

In response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act and other political authorities are taking additional steps with the goal of enhancing the security of the United States. These steps, intended to protect, have caused concern amongst some of our students, especially our international students, who fear that their records may be requested. We are deeply concerned for our students and we are attentive to any activities that may infringe on their civil liberties and academic freedom.

Civil liberties and academic freedom are vital to a university. But the freedoms of individuals are not absolute. Heavily weighted though they must be, civil liberties and academic freedom must be balanced against other important principles such as national security.

Striking the perfect balance between civil liberties and academic freedom and the desire to improve internal security is an enduring, complex and difficult challenge. The Senate assumes the role of representing the faculty of a great public university to address this challenge.

We accept the Chancellor's invitation to advise him on these issues, as stated in his December 3, 2001 message on anti-terrorism and student records, and propose the creation of a joint Administration/Senate working group to include representatives from the faculty, administration and student body. The working group would be convened to:    

  • review the effect of the USA PATRIOT Act on existing campus policies and procedures governing the disclosure of records;
  • establish campus standards for the disclosure of records under the "health and safety" and "subpoena" statutory exemption categories allowed under FERPA; and
  • forward to the Chancellor recommended changes to the administration of disclosure policies, procedures and standards, striving to protect the civil liberties and academic freedom of our campus community in light of the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act.