Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

AKEEL BILGRAMI
JONATHAN R. COLE
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bilg16880
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  • Book Info
    Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?
    Book Description:

    In these seventeen essays, distinguished senior scholars discuss the conceptual issues surrounding the idea of freedom of inquiry and scrutinize a variety of obstacles to such inquiry that they have encountered in their personal and professional experience. Their discussion of threats to freedom traverses a wide disciplinary and institutional, political and economic range covering specific restrictions linked to speech codes, the interests of donors, institutional review board licensing, political pressure groups, and government policy, as well as phenomena of high generality, such as intellectual orthodoxy, where coercion is barely visible and often self-imposed.

    As the editors say in their introduction: "No freedom can be taken for granted, even in the most well-functioning of formal democracies. Exposing the tendencies that undermine freedom of inquiry and their hidden sources and widespread implications is in itself an exercise in and for democracy."

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53879-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xx)

    The title of this volume, despite its associative distractions, is meant quite literally. A primary achievement of the essays in the pages that follow is to identify and analyze different groups and tendencies in our society that fear academic freedom and attempt to thwart it, sources as diverse in range and generality as intellectual orthodoxy, intellectual obscurantism, the interests of donors, institutional review board licensing, Israeli and other pressure groups, U.S. legislation and government policy, and actions taken within universities such as speech codes and restrictions on research . . .

    As a value within the academy, it is arguable...

  4. 1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM
    (pp. 1-9)
    GEOFFREY R. STONE

    As columbia university professor and former provost Jonathan R. Cole observed in his workThe Great American University, “the protection of ideas and expression from external political interference or repression became absolutely fundamental to the university.”¹ Indeed, it is in no small measure our deep commitment to academic freedom that has allowed American universities to be “great.”

    It is imperative, though, that we never take academic freedom for granted, for the freedom of thought and inquiry we enjoy today in the academy is the product of centuries of struggle, and in the first part of this essay I will briefly...

  5. 2 TRUTH, BALANCE, AND FREEDOM
    (pp. 10-26)
    AKEEL BILGRAMI

    Though there is much radical—and often unpleasant—disagreement on the fundamental questions around academic freedom, such disagreement tends to be between people who seldom find themselves speaking to each other on an occasion such as this or even, in general, speaking to the same audience. On this subject, as in so much else in the political arena these days, one finds oneself speaking only to those with whom one is measurably agreed, at least on thefundamentalissues. As proponents of academic freedom, we all recognize who the opponents of academic freedom are, but we seldom find ourselves conversing...

  6. 3 ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND ITS OPPONENTS
    (pp. 27-39)
    DAVID BROMWICH

    The argument I will be making requires a single premise: the limits of academic freedom should not be narrower than the limits of intellectual freedom.¹ It is the right of the scholar to think, write, and speak whatever he or she wants to think, write, and speak. (I leave out the obvious limit on that freedom: it does not extend to immediate and threatened harm to other people, or the raising of an imminent physical threat to the institution that houses the scholar. We have laws to protect us from that menace, and a code of freedom should not be...

  7. 4 ACADEMIC FREEDOM UNDER FIRE
    (pp. 40-56)
    JONATHAN R. COLE

    Today, a half century after the 1954 House Un-American Activities Committee held congressional hearings on Communists in American universities, faculty members are witnessing once again a rising tide of anti-intellectualism and threats to academic freedom.¹ They are increasingly apprehensive about the influence of external politics on university decision making. The attacks on professors like Joseph Massad, Thomas Butler, Rashid Khalidi, Ward Churchill, and Edward Said, coupled with other actions taken by the federal government in the name of national security, suggest that we may well be headed for another era of intolerance and repression.

    The United States paid a heavy...

  8. 5 KNOWLEDGE, POWER, AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM
    (pp. 57-80)
    JOAN W. SCOTT

    Although the term academic freedom has come to seem self-evident—so often is it invoked to condemn egregious violations of the perceived rights of members of university communities—in fact, it is a complicated idea with limited application. In its origins in the United States at the turn of the last century, it pertained only to faculty—to those who produced and transmitted the knowledge necessary for the advancement of the common good. And not necessarily to tenured faculty, since the practice was virtually unknown then. Academic freedom was aimed at resolving conflicts about the relationship between power and knowledge,...

  9. 6 OBSCURANTISM AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM
    (pp. 81-96)
    JON ELSTER

    The most commonly cited threat to academic freedom takes the form of formal, vertical pressures. Congress, government agencies, university trustees, deans, and departmental chairs possess a large repertory of subtle and unsubtle means to dissuade speech and writing they do not like. They can, for instance, withhold funding or impose sanctions of various kinds. Organizations and associations in civil society may also bring pressure to bear on scholars, perhaps most frequently by the indirect method of lobbying those in a position to impose formal sanctions. In this essay, I shall discuss the threats to academic freedom that arise from more...

  10. 7 WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT ACADEMIC FREEDOM?
    (pp. 97-122)
    MICHELE MOODY-ADAMS

    In the autumn of 1999, Princeton University’s appointment of Peter Singer to a chair in bioethics generated protest from national disability-rights groups and critics of abortion, as well as from a small but vocal group of Princeton undergraduates and alumni. Singer had long been the subject of controversy for claiming that the lives of some severely disabled people are not worth living, and therefore that it can be justifiable to euthanize them. A different kind of controversy emerged when an influential member of Princeton’s board of trustees publicly linked Singer’s views on euthanasia of severely disabled infants to Nazism, and...

  11. 8 ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND THE CONSTITUTION
    (pp. 123-152)
    ROBERT POST

    In modern american usage, the concept of academic freedom can refer either to the set of institutional principles by which universities should ideally be governed, or it can refer to the standards by which universities and their personnel receive constitutional protection.¹ In this chapter I shall discuss academic freedom understood as a concept of constitutional law.

    For the past fifty years, the First Amendment has been interpreted to generate protections for academic freedom. The Supreme Court has proclaimed that academic freedom is a “special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy...

  12. 9 IRB LICENSING
    (pp. 153-189)
    PHILIP HAMBURGER

    The licensing of speech or the press is widely assumed to be an obsolete problem.¹ Back in the dimly lit past, the Inquisition and the Star Chamber licensed the press and thereby suppressed much scientific and political inquiry. By contrast, in the enlightened present, such licensing apparently is no longer a significant threat.

    The licensing of speech and the press, however, has returned on a wider scale than anything imagined by the Inquisition or the Star Chamber. In response to anxieties about the academic study of human beings, Health and Human Services (HHS) has led the federal government in imposing...

  13. 10 TO FOLLOW THE ARGUMENT WHERE IT LEADS: An Antiquarian View of the Aim of Academic Freedom at the University of Chicago
    (pp. 190-238)
    RICHARD A. SHWEDER

    What is academic freedom for?¹ And how is it doing these days at the University of Chicago, which proudly thinks of itself as a Socratic, free-thinking, and contentious institution, and where I have been a member of the faculty for over four decades? If the values and norms associated with academic freedom are fragile (as history has shown) yet central to the intellectual life of any great university (which is a proposition I endorse and therefore will leave to other skeptics to contest) from which threats, external and internal, must it be protected?

    With respect to the first question, two...

  14. 11 WHAT IS ACADEMIC FREEDOM FOR?
    (pp. 239-246)
    ROBERT J. ZIMMER

    Academic freedom is often taken as an unexamined given on university campuses and is often viewed from outside the academy with some bafflement. Both of these situations should be a cause of concern. Properly understood, academic freedom is of enormous importance to our society and to the well-being of our academic institutions, and it is central to the contributions universities can make. The threats to academic freedom come from both outside and within the academy. An examination of academic freedom, its meaning and purpose, can increase understanding outside the academy and also clarify its meaning within the academy, providing us...

  15. 12 ACADEMIC FREEDOM: Some Considerations
    (pp. 247-274)
    MATTHEW GOLDSTEIN and FREDERICK SCHAFFER

    The principle of academic freedom is so essential to colleges and universities that it could be said to be part of the genetic code of higher education institutions. It is a self-evident truth of a university’s constitution. As Thomas Jefferson once said of the University of Virginia, “Here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”¹

    Less self-evident are its scope and application. Defining the concept of academic freedom has become a task shared by courts, colleges, and not a few constitutional scholars....

  16. 13 ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND THE BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI UNIVERSITIES
    (pp. 275-292)
    STANLEY FISH

    The book-length study from which this chapter is excerpted begins by noting that the literature of academic freedom is a literature of persistent and basic questions.

    Is academic freedom a subset of the First Amendment and therefore something that affords legal protection to those who qualify as academics? Or is academic freedom a subset of freedom in the larger philosophical sense and therefore a political rather than a legal project? Or (a third possibility) is academic freedom a less exalted concept, neither a legal right nor a philosophical imperative, but the name of a guild desire, the desire to be...

  17. 14 EXERCISING RIGHTS: Academic Freedom and Boycott Politics
    (pp. 293-315)
    JUDITH BUTLER

    One might begin by asking whether there are conditions under which academic freedom can be exercised. The thesis that academic freedom isconditionedpresupposes that there are institutional structures that make academic freedom possible and protect its ongoing exercise. What does it matter if there are such conditions? Is academic freedom not separable from the conditions of its exercise? My suggestion is that academic freedom is a conditioned freedom and that it cannot rightly be thought or exercised without those conditions. So when we defend academic freedom, we defend the complex institutional conditions that make its exercise possible, and we...

  18. 15 ISRAEL AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM
    (pp. 316-333)
    JOHN MEARSHEIMER

    Freedom of speech lies at the heart of American academic life.¹ It means that scholars and students can say what they want on virtually any subject and bring controversial speakers to campus. Universities go to great lengths to promote open discourse and not endorse or discriminate against any particular perspective. Academic freedom is easy to support in principle, but not always easy to embrace in practice. At times, individuals and groups both within and outside the academy dislike what is being said on campus and try to silence the voices they find offensive.

    A major threat to academic freedom today...

  19. 16 ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND THE SUBSERVIENCE TO POWER
    (pp. 334-342)
    NOAM CHOMSKY

    The subject of this brief essay is the decision by the DePaul administration to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein, a remarkable teacher and outstanding scholar, whose work has received the highest praise from some of the most distinguished scholars in the many fields in which he has worked, notably the founder of Holocaust studies and its most respected figure, the late Raul Hilberg. And also the denial of tenure to another fine scholar, Mehrene Larudee, whose crime appears to have been her honorable support for Finkelstein. I will not review this sordid affair. The basic facts are clear enough in...

  20. 17 ACADEMIC FREEDOM: A PILOT STUDY OF FACULTY VIEWS
    (pp. 343-394)
    JONATHAN R. COLE, STEPHEN COLE and CHRISTOPHER C. WEISS

    The overwhelming majority of faculty members at America’s leading colleges or universities would fully embrace the concepts of academic freedom and free inquiry. The same is apt to be true for faculty members throughout the nation’s more than 4,000 colleges and universities. But if you were to ask the same faculty members what academic freedom was, or how it differed from the more general form of freedom that is called “freedom of speech” or “freedom of expression,” or if you were to ask them what academic freedom was for, they might pause before formulating an answer, and their answers might...

  21. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 395-404)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 405-428)