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Introduction Academic freedom, a time-honoured principle at the core of the mod- ern university, is a term that higher education administrators will often be confronted with. They will be variously called upon to defend it, defy it, and occasionally even to help define it. Whichever the path chosen by the administrator on a particular occasion, it will likely be one fraught with conceptual difficulties and formidable opposition.

This is so partly because, as a principle, academic freedom is an excel- lent candidate for lip service and for exalted — but sometimes self- serving — construal. Academic freedom is also justified in terms of causal claims which lend themselves only with great difficulty to em- pirical testing Karran It has been therefore observed, with much justice, that a commitment to academic freedom requires a leap of faith Dworkin Furthermore, academic freedom seems to have survived in systemic or organizational conditions which some of its supporters have routinely deemed incompatible with the principle, such as university systems without tenure as in the UK or universi- ties without robust academic senates as in the US, judging by Euro- pean standards.

All of the above, and much of what is offered below in this article, may explain why academic freedom remains a tantalizing concept, hard to define with precision, controversial, and prone to abuse. If this seems demoralizing, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that the same is true of many other principles we hold in high regard and pay allegiance to, such as free speech, freedom of the press or religious liberty, to cite just a few. Nevertheless, they are broadly cherished and defended — and justifiably so. Since a guide needs clear guideposts, an effort will be made to provide a narrow definition and examples of good practices.

Nonetheless, de- bates over academic freedom will always involve ethical issues and references to broad and sometimes fuzzy values. To be able to negoti- ate the concept — to defend it before outside constituencies and to en- gage in meaningful conversations with faculty — university administra- tors will have to be aware of its philosophical underpinnings and ethi- cal implications as well.

The concept and its history 2. In what concerns the question of historical precedents, at the risk of extreme simplification one may identify several moments in the histo- ry of European thought and social organization which played a key role in the making of the German freedom to teach and of contempo- rary academic freedom more generally. Among other things, they enjoyed a considerable level of corporate autonomy from church and state, something uncommon for educational institutions at the time. Last but not least, although medieval thought was not necessarily friendly to the solitary quests of intellectual adventurers, academic or otherwise, it did allow a measure of freedom for speculative pursuits as long as the riskier ideas were entertained only hypothetically.

EconStor: Free research in fearful times: conceptualizing an index to monitor academic freedom

The remarkable intellectual inquisitiveness of the sixteenth and seven- Growth of intellectual teenth centuries, which among others gave birth to the so-called New freedom in the early Science, brought with it increasingly articulate claims to intellectual modern era freedom. Thinkers from Campanella to Descartes advocated the liber- tas philosophandi, or freedom to philosophize Sutton Spinoza framed this concept within a broader — and quite courageous — secular, republican perspective, which later developed into a full-blown liberal conception. The universities, then widely perceived as conservative institutions, did not play a leading role in these developments Spino- za refused an academic position in order to preserve his philosophical liberty , although they were not completely marginal either.

They did, however, enjoy the fruit of intellectual emancipation. In the case of Germany, this ideal had a strong national or communal dimension as well.


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In both countries, it found one of its highest expressions in the idea of the University, where the savant works in the realm of Academia submitting to the laws of reason ra- ther than to those of the state. Distinct conceptions These brief historical remarks underscore an essential point about of freedom contemporary academic freedom: it is the product of distinct traditions of thought, at the centre of which lie different, only partly overlapping conceptions of freedom Russell Medieval freedom is primarily corporatist in nature; it benefits individuals as a result of their mem- bership in an organized group.

Enlightenment freedom is closer to the liberal, individualistic conceptions prevalent today. The freedom of the Romantics was a positive one a freedom to create , rather than a negative liberty a freedom from outside interference. Contemporary academic freedom owes something to each of these traditions, and often struggles with commitments that, without being irreconcilable, are often challenging to build into a harmonious whole. Is academic freedom a universal concept? The fact that, in , the World University Service, bringing together organizations from 60 countries, issued the Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education the Lima Declaration suggests that this view is shared not just in Europe and North America, but in other parts of the world as well.

If the question above inquires about the cultural origins of the concept as it is commonly understood today, the answer is that — as discussed above — the idea of academic freedom emerged in Europe at the inter- section of several intellectual and social traditions. This does not mean, howev- er, that the principle of academic freedom does not resonate with scholarly or moral or policy perspectives in other areas of the world it has a longstanding tradition in both of the Americas, for instance ; or that it cannot be legitimately advanced as a universal ideal.

First- ly, while the core of the concept is relatively straightforward, its im- plications are often held to extend beyond a narrow interpretation of the notion. Secondly, it is not always clear how academic freedom relates to other important principles of academic organization, in par- ticular to the idea of university autonomy.

The core of academic freedom is aptly defined in this lengthy but The canonical concept carefully phrased definition: [academic freedom is the] personal liberty to pursue the investi- gation, research, teaching, and publication of any subject as a matter of professional interest without vocational jeopardy or threat of other sanction, save only upon adequate demonstration of an inexcusable breach of professional ethics in the exercise of that freedom. Specifically, that which sets academic freedom apart as a distinct freedom is its vocational claim of special and limited accountability in respect to all academically related pur- suits of the teacher-scholar: an accountability not to any institu- tional or societal standard of economic benefit, acceptable inter- est, right thinking, or socially constructive theory, but solely to a fiduciary standard of professional integrity.

Under this view, a university chemist who is out to demystify popular Protection against misconceptions about hard drugs; a physicist who experiments with sanctions processes that may prove useful in the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction WMDs ; a psychologist who claims to have shown that some preferably minority racial groups are innately inferior to other preferably majority groups; a social scientist who purports to demonstrate that some forms of totalitarianism promote personal happi- ness; or a literary critic who praises fiction seemingly condoning child pornography — all should enjoy, for these uncommon views or endeav- ours, immunity against academic sanction or threat of sanction.

This is not to deny that said views or endeavours have wider moral implica- tions, nor that the general public is entitled to be concerned about their potential effects.

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However, a society which cherishes academic freedom would not sanction or demand sanctions for these university scholars. Naturally, academic freedom is one fundamental value among many, and under extreme circumstances e. But this balancing act needs to give academic freedom its due. Before unpacking each of the four dimensions in the definition Sec- tions 2. As noted above, the principle of academic freedom does not lend itself easily to empirical validation. While it seems reasonable to claim that societies in which academic freedom is held in high regard, or univer- sities which comply strictly with the principle in question, are doing better in a variety of ways by comparison with other types of societies or universities, the precise direction of causality will be hard to pin down.

Most likely, the causal relationship works both ways.

This is a bit problematic in the case of academic freedom because the strongest claims in its favour rest on its social benefits. Hence the leap of faith previously alluded to. Simply put, a society where scientific truth is pursued and imparted freely will advance at a faster pace scientifically and technologically, and will reap the fruits of this progress. Furthermore, if attaining and communicating scientific as well as philosophical truth is a worthy social goal, then better progress towards truth will be possible in such a society. Universities, in this view, play a key role in the quest for scientific and philosophical truth, through both their research and their educational missions as safeguarded by academic freedom DeGeorge Demo- arrangements or cratic societies are always exposed to the tyranny of the majority.

They help prevent a subtle but invidious form of majority tyranny without substituting a less subtle and worse form of tyranny — that of the minority — in its place.

To ensure that both of these functions are achievable, intellectual free- dom, and academic freedom in particular, are necessary. Academic freedom protects and instils the virtue of professional and Individual and profes- individual autonomy. Since scholarship consists, by definition, in the sional autonomy pursuit of truth, or at least in the exploration of old as well as new ideas and their relative merits, limitations on such a pursuit would severely hamper the ability of the academic to discharge her profes- sional duties.

Moreover, if professional autonomy — in general, not just for faculty — represents a worthwhile social ideal, then being edu- cated by and around autonomous professionals will inspire this virtue in students. After graduation, the latter will hopefully act as autono- mous professionals themselves, in academia or other walks of life. Freedom of expression, a fundamental human right, covers with vary- Free speech ing degrees of strength some kinds of speech e. Even liberal democratic jurisdictions which withhold free speech protections from some forms of speech e. The latter arguably does not apply — or not with the same force — to employment relations.

Academic freedom prohibits precisely such an act. Freedom of academic One may ask why academic freedom is supposed to be stronger more and non-academic protective than the intellectual freedom accorded to scientists working scientists outside academia. This is not an easy case to make convincingly. Yet this reasoning should apply to all those engaged in intel- lectual pursuits, at least in an organized setting.

The argument for aca- demic freedom as a stronger version of intellectual freedom is, in a sense, historical. In Europe and later on in North America the institu- tion in which scholars operated at the farthest available distance from outside-imposed goals and standards, and in which others were educat- ed in this spirit of disinterestedness, has been the university. The argu- ment for academic freedom amounts to an affirmation that this mode of operation is still valuable and should be preserved, and that the univer- sity has so far been the best place for this. While, depending on these circumstances, their academic freedom might be easier or more difficult to protect in practice, the principle sets forth that all should enjoy equal protection.

Besides professors, the academic community comprises other types of members, and some of these have also occasionally invoked academic freedom. Academic librarians Especially in North America, where they are often assimilated to fac- ulty and sometimes carry out research, academic librarians have his- torically claimed academic freedom Donovan A variety of professional associations, such the American Library Association 8 www. Librarians have a manifest interest in intellec- tual freedom and have been historically subjected to various forms of censorship.

But should they enjoy academic freedom per se?

The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom

The answer hinges on the role librarians play in the university. If their job is viewed primarily as ancillary to that of the professor, the answer is perhaps in the negative. However, their professional work would still be protected indirectly through the academic freedom of the prof- essoriate. If one conceptualizes the mission of academic librarians in more elevated terms, such as protecting knowledge, ensuring access to information, safeguarding the privacy of information-seekers etc. Top and middle managers have occasionally courted the protections of University academic freedom, especially when they are also faculty members.

Administrators must protect the goodwill of their organization and mind the bottom line. Academic freedom will not offer protection against failure to do so. Things get admittedly more complicated when professors doubling as administrators speak publicly in ways which may harm the institution, yet what they say or do falls within the compass of their academic competence. This raised the ire of many within and outside academia.

Whether Summers was fit for the presidency is a matter to be deter- mined solely by evaluating his performance against standards appro- priate for an administrator Fish Would the faculty work with him? What about the students? Would the alumni still give as much as previously? As clients, students have interests and, as a result, they enjoy specific rights. Just as a patient has a right to expert medical diagnosis, appropriate treat- ment, confidentiality, or adequate bedside manners, so students have a right to expert teaching, proper evaluation, or academic guidance.

Similarly, students do not typically have a say in the content of courses, the teaching methods, or the standards of assessment, though they may rate the learning experience or contest the results of evalua- tions. This is the case even for doctoral students, whose expertise may be comparatively advanced. This being said, some student rights do have a kinship affinity to intellectual freedom Monypenny Students also have a right to non-indoctrination: while they may be evaluated on, among others, their ability to reproduce and discuss ideas, their actual intimate convictions may not be considered for pur- poses of academic assessment.

These activities should, however, be interpreted broadly. Teaching refers to more than basic class activities, just as research is not limited to the laboratory. The former implies choice of course content, conditions of participation, teaching methods, terms of assessment, but also inviting speakers on 10 www. Sometimes, controversial materials and provocative peda- gogy will be introduced in class in an attempt to challenge ideas held by students unreflectively.

One student felt offended, and the community re- sponded with requests that the professor be fired Jaschik Similarly, research involves not only data and results and their discus- sion in academic publications, but also their interpretation for the wid- er public. An academic goes to conferences, invites relevant speakers to lecture, advises outside constituencies — sometimes as a job-related task —, and gets involved in professional forums. Her extramural pro- fessional acts are no less protected than the intramural ones.

This too is usually regarded as within the ambit of academ- ic freedom since organizational practices are seen as directly or indi- rectly relevant to the professional work of an academic. Admittedly, there is a substantial for our purposes difference between publicly voiced disapproval of hiring practices, allocation of funding or the terms of research contracts with business and, respectively, university policy on donors or service providers and the political implications thereof.

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Academic Freedom

Add to basket. Comparative Reading Betty J. Institutions of Higher Education Linda Sparks. American Higher Education Peter B. Grading Student Writing Bruce W. Collaborative Writing Bruce W. Career Index Gretchen S. Middle Level Education Kathleen Barta. Academic Freedom Stephen H.

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This work is strongly recommended for all academic libraries and for those collections that cover education and first amendment freedoms. The collaboration of Aby and Kuhn results in a first-rate entry in this series, on a timely topic For all readers interested in academic freedom.?