AURAK Discusses Academic Freedom

December 5, 2018,

The Office of Academic Support Services of the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) hosted a seminar featuring the Professor of English, Arabic, and Translation Studies, Professor Kamal Abdel-Malek, and the Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Technology, Dr. Bryn Holmes, in an explanation of academic freedom and navigating controversial topics in the classroom.

The Dean of the Office of Academic Support Services, Professor Steven Zani, began the seminar explaining that AURAK policy is in place to ensure that faculty have full academic freedom in their classrooms. When they use the University resources, however, they must remember that the goal is to satisfy learning objectives and to understand that they cannot compromise the University’s values and they cannot violate UAE law.  Dr. Bryn gave the advice of teaching controversial topics from a historical standpoint and structuring questions requiring students to prove they understand controversial ideas without being forced to believe them. Professor Kamel contributed that controversial issues should be taught in nonthreatening methods, presenting several interpretations and perceptions of the issues unbiasedly without criticism. Show students respect by not insulting any particular belief since the beliefs present in the classroom are largely unknown. He reaffirmed teaching controversial issues from a historical standpoint and added that it should be made explicitly known that these ideas are not those of the professor but those of other populations in history. The seminar closed with the professors exchanging personal experiences with controversial topics in the classroom.

Visiting Professor of Blended Learning, Saif Rayyan, found the topic of the seminar to be an interesting topic as a faculty member and thought it was important to set rules in the classroom concerning controversial topics to avoid confusion among students. Dr. Hurrem Yilmaz from Marketing enjoyed the presentation very much and believed that the session should repeated in the future to raise awareness of how such situations should be handled.