Academic freedom is under immense strain. Campaigns to sack allegedly racist academics; the expansion of student union no-platform policies to ever growing numbers of individuals and groups who espouse offensive views; government advising lecturers to spy on radical Muslim students; calls for a boycott on Israeli academics; and a climate of intellectual conformity – all threaten to erode the special commitment to open and rigorous debate supposedly cherished on campus.
Although freedom of speech is itself contested, ‘academic freedom’ presents a distinct case. Do different rules really apply, and how? Do academics have special privileges not enjoyed by others? Or conversely does academic employment entail certain responsibilities – to students, the public, or even to Truth – which justify restrictions on freedom? An academic job is still a job – does this mean criticism of university administration does not fall under the banner of ‘academic freedom’, and if so where should we draw the line? Or do such considerations miss what is special about the university as a place of free inquiry? Many academics are today feeling the need to restate the fundamental principles of academic freedom – is this something that should be of interest beyond the university itself? Under the threat of boycotts and censorship, the limits placed on ‘academic freedom’ will ultimately help define what academia and the university are really about and their place in society.
trainee barrister; formerly, paralegal, Baha Mousa and Al Sweady Public Inquiries; founder, Student Academics for Academic Freedom
researcher in political science, Columbia University; editor of anti-war on terror website, www.againstwot.com; NY Salon member
|Professor Steve Fuller|
Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick
professor of law and director, Kent Law Clinic, University of Kent, Canterbury
|Professor Dennis Hayes|
professor of education, University of Derby
|Professor Dennis Hayes professor of education, University of Derby|
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