Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer


Higher education attorneys have emerged in recent years as integral participants in the decision and policymaking processes within American higher educationinstitutions. The perceptions of higher education attorneys regarding academic freedom, including professorial, institutional, and student academic freedom, may significantly impact how higher education institutions respond to modern challenges to such freedom. Key challenges to academic freedom as identified in the literature were categorized into four groups for this study (a) judicial or governmental challenges, (b) internal or collegial challenges, (c) institutionalchallenges, and (d) outside or extra-institutional challenges.

An Internet-based survey was sent to higher education attorneys who subscribed to the National Association of College and University Attorneys' list serve. The survey included questions regarding the attorneys' (a) personal demographics, (b) institutional characteristics, (c) personal and professional experiences with academic freedom, (d) legal offices' roles and responsibilities related to academic freedom disputes, (e) perceptions regarding professorial, institutional, and student academic freedom, and (f) perceptions regarding the four groups of academic freedom challenges listed above. Responses from 179 attorneysnationwide revealed considerable support among higher education attorneys for professorial, institutional, and student academic freedom. Higher education attorneys' perceptions differed significantly based on many of the personal demographics and institutional characteristics explored in the survey, particularly asto the attorneys' professional and institutional experience with academic freedom issues or disputes. However, attorneys' perceptions regarding the three groups of academic freedom did not differ based on age, years of higher education legal experience, or whether their institution was public or private.

Moreover, although this study confirmed the existence of many challenges to academic freedom, it also confirmed that, overall, not all campuses are experiencing significant (or the same) challenges to academic freedom. Additionally, higher education attorneys considered themselves to have adequate resources to keep themselves current on academic freedom issues, and they perceived their institutional administrators as well prepared to address academic freedom issues on their campuses.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access