March 10, 2024

College Statement on Academic Freedom & Student Rights

The following statement was sent to Santa Monica College employees by Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery on March 10, 2024:

Dear SMC Colleagues:

Beginning late last week, Santa Monica College personnel and college leaders began receiving numerous emails and calls from community members expressing concern about a particular assignment in an SMC instructor’s Canvas shell, which asks students to consider the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict through a particular lens. The college has developed the following statement:

Santa Monica College is committed to open dialog and the free exchange of ideas for educators and students. This commitment is part of our institutional and legal obligation to academic freedom, which forms the bedrock of a healthy, vibrant democracy where views are often divided on a range of issues and concerns. At SMC, board policy and a contractual commitment with the faculty union protect academic freedom. As reflected in the Statement on the Freedom to Teach by the American Association of University Professors, faculty have the right “to select the materials, determine the approach to the subject, make the assignments, and assess student academic performance in teaching activities for which faculty members are individually responsible, without having their decisions subject to the veto of a department chair, dean, or other administrative officer.”

The views expressed by individual faculty do not necessarily reflect the college’s values but, at the same time, are not considered prohibited conduct unless the speech or expression is unlawful. 

SMC deeply values freedom of speech and expression for our students and for the entire college community as we encourage the robust and meaningful exchange of ideas and perspectives. Students have the right to take reasoned exception to concepts and theories presented in their classes and to disagree with opinions they hear from their instructors. Students are shielded from prejudiced or capricious evaluation of their academic performance by instructors, and this right is protected under college regulations. The college encourages all employees to cultivate learning environments which realize these values.

We recognize that these are fraught times causing great pain, anxiety, and divisiveness. SMC remains actively dedicated to fostering an inclusive, respectful teaching and learning environment that reflects the diversity of our student body.



Kathryn E. Jeffery, Ph.D.