Monday, May 15, 2006

Whole lotta Churchills going on 

ACTA has a new report on the state of the politicized classrooms, and makes a great statement about the nature of academic freedom:
Academic freedom is not insulation from oversight or accountability. It does not license professors to ignore their duties to teach and research responsibly, and it does not license institutions to fail to ensure that they do so. Nor does academic freedom exempt institutions or individuals from criticism.

Too often, however, members of the academy equate academic freedom�the right to teach, research, and speak publicly�with the right to institutional autonomy. Too often, they expect that, in the name of academic freedom, they should be immune from scrutiny and that they should not have to answer to the public. But academic freedom only grants faculties intellectual and pedagogical independence on the condition that they honor their reciprocal obligation to respect students� academic freedom to learn.

Academic freedom is essentially a public trust founded on the condition that universities foster a robust exchange of ideas that acknowledges the existence of multiple perspectives and enables students to decide for themselves what they think and believe. Academic freedom ends where violations of that trust begin.
The result of administrators' cowardice in enforcing that contract between the public and the university will be things like post-tenure review and perhaps government-mandated reviews of hiring and promotion practices. A test case will be how Colorado University deals with the Ward Churchill case, with the report on the investigative committee's findings due out tomorrow. (But don't be surprised if they delay.)