Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Matthew D. Davis, PhD


Kent Farnsworth

Shawn Woodhouse

Kimberly Allend


Abstract Academic freedom, broadly understood as the right of faculty members and researchers to appropriately investigate fields of knowledge and express views without fear of restraint or reprisals (Brown, 2006) is a traditional and cherished moral value to faculty and instructional administrators in American institutions of higher education. Historical challenges to academic freedom, both external and internal, continue today. This study worked from the premise that academic freedom is an important moral principle to higher education. The ultimate objective was to determine the moral justification for academic freedom. The two primary theories of ethics, a rights-based, and consequentialist paradigms, were offered as the potential resolution to the question. A community college was the setting for the study. The project employed a phenomenological method as the primary means for extracting qualitative data from community college faculty and administrators. This illuminated the purpose of academic freedom as a principle that is grounded primarily in a consequentialist moral theory, and thus a justification that supports public benefits.

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