Since 1776, Phi Beta Kappa has championed liberal arts and sciences education — rooted in free inquiry and expression — as essential to a flourishing democracy and vibrant culture.
Today, Phi Beta Kappa serves as a thought leader and advances policies that promote free inquiry as central to the ability of the nation’s universities to create and discover knowledge, transmit that knowledge through teaching, academic scholarship, and participate fully in the discussion and analysis of the most pressing issues facing our nation now.
Liberal arts and sciences education requires academic freedom. Higher education relies on “four essential freedoms” of institutions: “to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.” In the context of shared governance, faculty should retain primary responsibility for coursework, methods of instruction, academic standards, program development, degree requirements, and academic student affairs.
These institutional freedoms are fundamental to the creation and discovery of knowledge, the transmission of that knowledge to the next generation through teaching and learning, and the establishment and safeguarding of a democratic society.
Ultimately, academic freedom matters to all Americans by cultivating the intellectual habits required to become and remain a self-governing people. In this work, we are privileged to work alongside our network of members, chapters, associations, and other supporters. Learn more key actions that the Society has taken to advance academic freedom throughout our organization’s history.
Phi Beta Kappa on Academic Freedom
Phi Beta Kappa's National Arts & Sciences Initiative created a letter template for members to send personalized emails and letters to elected officials to advocate for the protection of academic freedom. Find this letter and more resources for advocating on behalf of arts and sciences education in our Toolkit.
Phi Beta Kappa and Colorado State University's College of Liberal Arts presented "Academic Freedom, Bias, and Freedom of Speech in Democratic Society", a lecture by Secretary/CEO Frederick M. Lawrence and CSU Dean Benjamin Withers.
Phi Beta Kappa Secretary/CEO Frederick M. Lawrence writes on the relevance of academic freedom in his quarterly Key Reporter column in the Winter 2022-23 issue.
Phi Beta Kappa Secretary/CEO Frederick M. Lawrence gave the Jules LaPidus Lecture at the Council of Graduate Schools Annual Meeting on December 4, 2021. His lecture, "Academic Freedom: For Whom and For What," interrogates why we as a society should give special consideration to the particular rights of inquiry and expression possessed by academics.
Phi Beta Kappa Society, along with over 90 other higher education groups, signed onto a public statement on the importance of free and open academic inquiry as a cornerstone of academic excellence.