Mittwoch, 21. Januar 2015

Lessons in academic freedom as lived experience

Lessons in academic freedom as lived experience
Linda S. Gottfredson (2010)


What is academic freedom, what guarantees it, and what would you do if your university violated yours? Few of us academics entertain these questions or ponder possible answers. This leaves us individually and collectively vulnerable to encroachments on our right to free and open inquiry. I use a case study from 1989–1994 to illustrate how violations of academic freedom develop, the typical pretexts used to justify them, and what is required to halt and reverse them. My aim is to help scholars recognize when academic freedom is at risk and how better to safeguard it in daily academic life. To this end, I describe the general social mechanisms that operate both inside and outside academe to selectively burden and suppress unpopular research. The case study provides concrete examples to illustrate six specific lessons. Like free speech in general, academic freedom (1) has maintenance costs, (2) is not self-enforcing, (3) is invoked today to stifle unwelcome speech, (4) is often violated by academic institutions, (5) is not often defended by academics themselves, and (6) yet, requires no heroic efforts for collective enjoyment if scholars consistently contribute small acts of support to prevent incursions.

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