I take the same view, of course, of exams for students: I think they can legitimately ask a student to report what the material taught in class indicates, but shouldn’t test students on what they really believe about controversial matters. That may at times be a vague line (though it can be made clearer with clearly worded questions or statements on the exam material), and at times it might be a hard line for courts to enforce, even in public universities that are bound by First Amendment limits on compelled speech. But it’s an important line that universities, whether public universities or private universities that are committed to academic freedom, need to respect.
In this case, the faculty member wrote to the president, provost, dean, Faculty Senate chair, faculty academic freedom committee chair, and the director of the equal opportunity/affirmative action office:
Today I attempted to complete the educational module, Preventing Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination and Retaliation. The most recent email I received on this training states that “This module is a priority for the University and is a required work expectation for all employees. More importantly, completing this module is the right thing to do.”
On this last sentence, I disagree. In fact, I cannot in good conscience complete it, nor should any faculty member at this university, since doing so violates academic freedom.
In particular, in order to continue the training, at multiple points I am required to give the one and only “correct” answer to a question. If such questions were only to see if the trainee understood university policy, a legitimate aim of the university, I would have no problem. But they are not limited to this goal. Instead, the training aims to make the user agree to statements about the world in general which the university has no right to require of faculty.