“Does Academic Freedom Protect Professors Embracing White Supremacist Ideas?”
here is Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth at The New Republic:
Does Academic Freedom Protect Professors Who Embrace White Supremacist Ideas?
The answer, for the hundred-plus years since the founding of the American Association of University Teachers (AAUP) in 1915, has been yes. It’s a disturbing achievement for anyone who views academic freedom as one of the cornerstones of a free and open society — and who understands how deeply it is under threat from Republican state legislatures trying to criminalize teaching. of critical race theory (CRT). It is also troubling that over the past decade the concept of academic freedom has been confused – sometimes innocently, sometimes not – with freedom of expression. The result is that even if pusillanimous university administrators remove a professor in his class for using a Chinese term that sounds like the N-word, seriously racist work continues to enjoy protection on the grounds that academic freedom goes hand in hand with freedom of speech, and scholars like Amy Wax , a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, can request a “nationalism of cultural distance” whose fundamental belief is that “our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites”. Indeed, in Wax’s case, this strange idea of academic freedom allowed him to lie in public, in a 2017 maintenance with Glenn Loury, on the academic achievements of black law students at Penn.
Wax did not come out entirely unscathed; she was deleted required freshman law classes, and his false claims of black Penn students were repudiated by his dean. But she stays in college, and she remains a right-wing heroine and a cause celeb for libertarians; in 2018, Paul S. Levy, Penn Trustee Emeritus and Law School Proctor resigned in protest on Penn’s decision to remove Wax from those required first-year courses, writing to then-president Amy Gutmann that the decision effectively suppresses “open, robust, and critical debate about differing views on issues important social issues”.
Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth wonder if this kind of speech, and others mentioned in their article, are protected by academic freedom. They make a distinction between freedom of expression as enshrined in the First Amendment and academic freedom. Here’s more:
These remarks are of course protected by the First Amendment. Whether they are also protected by academic freedom is the trickiest question, and it is the one we want to ask. The American concept of academic freedom is distinctive in that it covers not only research and teaching, but also “extramural statements” – statements beyond research and teaching, including Twitter and podcasts. The idea is that no professor gives up their First Amendment rights as a citizen when they accept an academic position. And since the infamous Leo Koch case at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1960, in which Koch was fired for writing a letter to the student newspaper claiming that students should have sex before marriage, the AAUP has always maintained that faculty should not be fired for extramural speeches unless that speech calls into question a professor’s fitness to serve. Ordinarily, this speech should relate directly to the faculty member’s field of study. The idea is that a historian who is a Holocaust denier is obviously unfit, while an electrical engineer who is a Holocaust denier is just a crank. This position makes perfect sense, even if few people realize that it carries the disturbing corollary that professors appreciate. bigger protection for extramural speech when they have no idea what they are talking about than for speech in the areas of their research and teaching.
So how does this principle guide us with professors espousing the ideas of white supremacy and the defenses of colonialism and slavery when they claim to speak and write based on their scientific expertise?
Read the rest here.