Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
For the Common Good

For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom

Matthew W. Finkin
Robert C. Post
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    For the Common Good
    Book Description:

    Debates about academic freedom have become increasingly fierce and frequent. Legislative efforts to regulate American professors proliferate across the nation. Although most American scholars desire to protect academic freedom, they have only a vague and uncertain apprehension of its basic principles and structure. This book offers a concise explanation of the history and meaning of American academic freedom, and it attempts to intervene in contemporary debates by clarifying the fundamental functions and purposes of academic freedom in America.

    Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post trace how the American conception of academic freedom was first systematically articulated in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and how this conception was in subsequent years elaborated and applied by Committee A of the AAUP. The authors discuss the four primary dimensions of academic freedom-research and publication, teaching, intramural speech, and extramural speech. They carefully distinguish academic freedom from the kind of individual free speech right that is created by the First Amendment. The authors strongly argue that academic freedom protects the capacity of faculty to pursue the scholar's profession according to the standards of that profession.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15554-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction: Why This Book?
    (pp. 1-10)

    The American conception of academic freedom crystallized nearly a century ago in theDeclaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenurecreated in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). It received its canonical formulation in 1940 in the jointly formulatedStatement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which is presently endorsed by over two hundred organizations. For the past century, American principles of academic freedom have been systematically elaborated and applied in the judicial and legislative work of Committee A—the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the AAUP. There is by now a...

  4. CHAPTER 1 The Historical Origins of the Concept of Academic Freedom
    (pp. 11-28)

    Academic freedom first appeared as a distinct concept in the late eighteenth century, though it spoke German at the time. German thinkers drew from the wellspring of the Enlightenment, which in turn drew from even deeper currents in intellectual history.

    Throughout civilized human existence there have been ideas that cannot be expressed, questions that cannot be asked lest civil or ecclesiastical authority be offended or threatened.¹ Let us begin with the stark impulse to suppress. It is visible in the book of Exodus. Tradition has it that when Korah led his rebellion against Moses, Korah questioned the law Moses had...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The 1915 Declaration and the American Concept of Academic Freedom
    (pp. 29-52)

    The architects of the American idea of academic freedom were required to adapt the German conception ofakademische Freiheitto a very different political and institutional setting. German professors were employees of the state and civil servants of high status. Academic freedom did not exempt German professors from the application of a disciplinary code requiring loyalty to the state; nor did it protect them as private citizens from state regulation. The professional autonomy that American graduate students so admired in the late nineteenth century could be conceived of as a compromise in which the state left scholars to theirwissenschaftlich...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Freedom of Research and Publication
    (pp. 53-78)

    The 1940Statementprovides that “teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.”¹ TheStatementdoes not use the adjective “full” to describe any other aspect of academic freedom.

    The unqualified robustness of the 1940Statement’s assurance for freedom of research and publication harkens back to the 1915Declaration.Walter Metzger has observed that the authors of the 1915Declarationrecognized “no such thing as dangerous knowledge;...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Freedom of Teaching
    (pp. 79-112)

    Academic freedom in the classroom is not a simple subject. The freedom of the individual professor in the classroom— what the Germans would callLehrfreiheit—must be reconciled with the prerogative of the corporate body of the faculty to design and implement curricular requirements. There is also the question of student academic freedom, which the Germans would callLernfreiheitLernfreiheitnever did make the transition to America, and in this country it is not clear whether it possesses independent content apart from the requirement that faculty abide by the proper limits ofLehrfreiheit.² It is in any event to the...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Freedom of Intramural Expression
    (pp. 113-126)

    Scholars of academic freedom distinguish between freedom of intramural expression and freedom of extramural expression. These categories turn not on the location of faculty speech but on its substance. “Intramural expression,” the subject of this chapter, concerns faculty speech that does not involve disciplinary expertise but is instead about the action, policy, or personnel of a faculty member’s home institution. Freedom of intramural expression encompasses both a letter in the local press protesting a university’s decision to displace residents of adjoining lowincome neighborhoods and a motion made to the same effect in a faculty senate or council. “Extramural expression,” the...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Freedom of Extramural Expression
    (pp. 127-148)

    The most theoretically problematic aspect of academic freedom is extramural expression. This dimension of academic freedom does not concern communications that are connected to faculty expertise, for such expression is encompassed within freedom of research, a principle that includes both the freedom to inquire and the freedom to disseminate the results of inquiry. Nor does extramural expression concern communications made by faculty in their role as officers of institutions of higher education. Freedom of extramural expression refers instead to speech made by faculty in their capacity as citizens, speech that is typically about matters of public concern and that is...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion: On Professional Responsibility
    (pp. 149-156)

    Academic freedom is not the freedom to speak or to teach just as one wishes. It is the freedom to pursue the scholarly profession, inside and outside the classroom, according to the norms and standards of that profession.

    The 1915Declarationperceived three primary threats to this freedom. The first concerned an ecclesiastical orthodoxy that sought to restrict professional autonomy in the interests of religious truth. This threat has abated with the decline in the proportion of religiously affiliated institutions in higher education¹ and with the spread of the secular ideals of the 1940Statement, even among church-related institutions.²


  11. APPENDIX 1: Excerpts from the 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure
    (pp. 157-182)
  12. APPENDIX 2: Excerpts from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure with 1970 Interpretive Comments
    (pp. 183-190)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 191-242)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 243-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-263)