“Academic freedom” is the concept that universities, faculty and students have the freedom to seek truth freely and without interference. Early cases involving theories of academic freedom found that it affords protection against outside — e.g., governmental — intrusion on the free pursuit of intellectual activity.
Individual academic freedom for faculty members is an extension of institutional academic freedom, as well as general Free Speech rights provided to all governmental employees under the United States Constitution. The ability of individual faculty members to teach and conduct research freely, and to participate in the affairs of the community, is central to institutional academic freedom. While the First Amendment does not afford an absolute guarantee that any and all speech by faculty members is protected (laws governing defamation of character, pornography, commercial speech and public broadcasting all place limits on free speech), it does require that government demonstrate a compelling reason for limiting speech on matters of public concern. Absent such a compelling interest, speech on issues of public interest cannot be grounds for dismissal or other adverse employment action against faculty members.
The Board of Regents has specifically granted UWM faculty the rights and privileges of academic freedom as they are generally understood in the academic community in Wisconsin Administrative Code UWS 4.01(2).