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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Alexander on "Academic Freedom"

Larry Alexander (San Diego) has a new paper, called "Academic Freedom."  Here is the SSRN abstract:

In this essay I take up the question of who is entitled to "academic freedom." By academic freedom I do not mean whatever first amendment rights professors and students possess with regard to the content of published research, class discussion, and informal remarks. That is a nettlesome topic, to be sure, but it is not mine, primarily because academic freedom is thought to extend to professors at private universities that are beyond the reach of the first amendment. Rather, by academic freedom I mean that freedom from job reprisals that is due academics when functioning as academics. And I argue that only when academics are so functioning is academic freedom their due.

On many campuses today there is a sizeable number of academics who are not so functioning in their publications or in their classrooms. Rather, they are engaging in crude political polemics. That is because disciplinary standards have vanished from many departments, especially in the humanities and social sciences, largely due to the confluence of identity politics and crude postmodernism, and abetted by the overwhelming political orthodoxy of the academy. If faculty are not faithful to arguments and evidence, assessed by traditional disciplinary standards, but are engaging in political polemics undisciplined by such standards, then actual politicians have as much claim to control the academy as do these politicized ersatz academics. For academic freedom is not their due.

Discuss.

Posted by Rick Garnett on March 16, 2006 at 03:30 PM in Law and Politics | Permalink

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Comments

Footnore two is indeed a trip. Here's a hypo for those contract folks out there. Suppose Alexander's dean reads this paper and fires him on the spot, on the strength of footnote two and Alexander's own contention that you ought to get sacked for political polemics. What happens in the subsequent contract litigation?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Mar 22, 2006 1:52:34 PM

Hm. Interesting. Do people think that challenging a law professor's work (in a polite, charitable, and thoughtful way) really hurts you on the market? I would have thought it a compliment, and one of the primary ways scholarship in any field moves forward. I have a bit of a personal stake in the answer, since all of my writing so far has at least included critiques of established figures.

Posted by: Adil Haque | Mar 17, 2006 10:46:02 AM

What's with all these anonymous bashings in the comments?

I'd like to land a tenure-track job somewhere down the road, maybe even at USD if I'm lucky. That goal wouldn't be helped by publicly declaring that Professor Alexander's article is nonsense (which is why academic freedom matters, of course).

Posted by: anon | Mar 17, 2006 1:02:08 AM

Look, disagree or agree with Alexander, he's putting his name on his views. What's with all these anonymous bashings in the comments?

Posted by: Dan Markel | Mar 16, 2006 9:39:30 PM

"Yeah, I had to chuckle at that footnote.

Its a new way to blog: put it into a page-long footnote.

Posted by: gr | Mar 16, 2006 8:58:14 PM

This is just typical conservative "my political screed is just objective scholarship, but anyone who disagrees with me is politically motivated, dishonest, and biased" nonsense (see, e.g., "Fair & Balanced" Fox News), but it gets a frisson of dangerousness by his vague allusions to suppressing the academic freedom of those who disagree with him. So, okay Larry: if someone's interpretation of post-Kantian epistemology is different from yours, they shouldn't be allowed to teach? This advances knowledge?

Posted by: Matt | Mar 16, 2006 7:06:05 PM

Yeah, I had to chuckle at that footnote.

Pot, please meet the kettle.

Posted by: anon | Mar 16, 2006 6:56:34 PM

Uh, what the heck is up with footnote 2? Talk about an unacademic polemic!

Posted by: T | Mar 16, 2006 5:46:10 PM

Rather, they are engaging in crude political polemics.

Does anyone really believe that, in the law, there's a clear distinction between "real scholarship" and "crude political polemics"? Where does MacKinnon's work fall? Posner's random musings on the latest issues of the day?

Posted by: anon | Mar 16, 2006 4:44:59 PM

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