Academic Freedom has Veered Off Course

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Jay Schalin,  Director of Policy Analysis at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education, wrote an insightful report on academic freedom in public versus private colleges, the roots and evolution of academic freedom, and the changes within the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which governs faculty.

Schalin’s report highlighted the misperceptions of what academic freedom entails. Academic freedom, argued Schalin, “does not guarantee protection against arrest; it concerns employment.” He continued and noted that public colleges “must therefore permit freedom of expression where it does not blatantly interfere with the operations of the university.” Schalin added that public institutions have to remain impartial, to prevent them from becoming centers of propaganda and indoctrination.

Private colleges have more leeway, because if they are religious-based institutions, they can freely exercise their religious tenets. But, Schalin pointed out that the AAUP believed private colleges which do not have a specific philosophy (religious or secular) have to act like public colleges regarding academic freedom.

Regarding free speech codes, where policies prohibit student and faculty speech to outside campus confines, “stifle serious and objective dialogue on controversial matters.” Schalin surmised, “That may very well be the real intention.”

The AAUP has veered off its original founding document (1915). Today, Schalin suggested that the organization “has become an advocacy group for faculty –an inconsistent one at that” after the AAUP pushed the University of Missouri to reinstate Melissa Click. Click was a professor who was caught on video strong-arming a student reporter and asking for “muscle” to remove the reporter and his cameraman. Schalin added, “the AAUP is now filling the moat surrounding the Ivory Tower to fend off any criticism of anything a professor does.”