Let’s look next at academic freedom in the University of Missouri’s Collected Rules and Regulations, 310.010, “Academic Freedom and Economic Security of Academic Staff.” Academic freedom and tenure are placed in a single policy statement. We start with a statement that academic freedom and tenure are “indispensible to the success” of the university:
The Board of Curators of the University of Missouri believes that academic freedom and the economic security of its academic staff are indispensable to the success of the University of Missouri in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society.
The Board then distinguishes academic staff from non-academic staff. These rules and regulations “do not purport . . . to cover in any way non-academic staff.” Thus, in matters of employment, there is a fundamental distinction made by the Board of Curators between faculty and non-faculty. Faculty expressly have academic rights and non-faculty do not. We then get a statement of academic freedom:
General Principles of Academic Freedom — The Board hereby reaffirms the principles of academic freedom in teaching and research for teachers and academic investigators (herein referred to as faculty members). These principles are as follows:
These principles are affirmed by the Board of Curators–they are not mere rules and regulations among others, but receive the direct affirmation by the Board.
1. Institutions of higher education are established and maintained for the common good, which depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression.
Again we find a statement of freedom of inquiry–“the free search for truth”–and freedom of discourse and publication–“its free expression.” The common good depends on faculty having freedom of inquiry and publication in matters of research.
2. Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research.
A further affirmation of academic rights, consistent with the Faculty Bylaws.
Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth.
Freedom in research means freedom not only in what to study but in how to study it and how to report it. We might add, necessarily, this freedom includes choices about when to acquire the right to exclude others from using the results of research in the form of patentable inventions. This freedom is declared by the Board of Curators to be “fundamental” to the advancement of truth, and seeking truth is the primary responsibility of the faculty.
Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental to the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights. The following sections are indicative of these rights and duties.
The Curators then turn to three matters pertaining to academic freedom–freedom in research, freedom in the classroom, and freedom to speak and write as citizens. Let’s focus on research:
Faculty members are entitled to freedom in research and in the publication of the results (qualified insofar as necessary in the case of sponsored research), subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties.
The qualification on freedom in research and publication is that they perform their “other academic duties.” Without going into what these other duties are, we can see that there is a clear distinction. In research, faculty have freedom provided that they do those things that they are assigned to do–that is, their “other academic duties.” Thus, “duties” is broad, but for some duties, such as research, faculty have freedom, while for other duties faculty might not have such freedom.
There is one qualification on freedom in research, having to do with sponsored research. But even here, faculty have a choice. No faculty member is assigned to a sponsored research task that the member has not already voluntarily chosen. If there are restrictions on the freedom of research and publication imposed by sponsored research, these are restrictions that faculty members have agreed to, even if that means giving up some academic rights otherwise reserved for them by the university.
It is clear that the University of Missouri’s Collected Rules and Regulations distinguish between the general duties or responsibilities that employees have and the special conditions that might give rise to a university claim to own inventions (patents) or original works of authorship (copyrights). The university permits its resources (including facilities) to be used to invent and author without making a claim, as long as the resources used are not “substantial.” And even with substantial use, under the copyright policy, there may be a written agreement on ownership that provides for copyright to remain with the authors. Thus, work within the general scope of duties alone does not give rise to a university claim of ownership of inventions or works of authorship unless that scope of duties is the result of an assignment of work (as, to specific inquiry, in the case of inventions; and commissioned or specified in a hiring document, or subject to a sponsorship agreement, in the case of works of authorship).
Furthermore, faculty are not ordinary employees. Faculty are assured of academic and “constitutional” rights, including freedom of inquiry, research, and publication. Faculty cannot be assigned to an inquiry without expressly agreeing to the assignment. Faculty inventors cannot be forced to publish through the patent literature unless they have previously agreed to give up their freedom of publication (such as by agreeing to be assigned to an inquiry or agreeing to accept “in a substantial degree” certain university resources with which they make or develop an invention).