Academic Freedom Must Be Preserved

Apr 05, 2019 |  NAS

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Academic Freedom Must Be Preserved

Apr 05, 2019 | 


The National Association of Scholars and supporters of Professors Colleen Sheehan and James Wilson are calling for signatures. Read the petition below and sign your name. Identifiable signatures will be added every three business days, if not sooner. 

Villanova University professors Colleen A. Sheehan and James Matthew Wilson recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that their university is now requiring that student evaluations of professors include questions about how well their teachers advance the causes of “diversity” and “inclusion.” Sheehan and Wilson object to this rule on the grounds that it is an attempt to enforce conformity to progressive political beliefs. Villanova’s president and provost, the Reverend Peter M. Donohue and Patrick G. Maggitti, responded to Sheehan and Wilson’s essay by asserting that “nothing [is] more central to Villanova’s Catholic, Augustinian identity than our community.”

We endorse the points made by professors Sheehan and Wilson.  Student evaluations of how well their teachers serve the ideology of “diversity” and “inclusion” are plainly efforts to police faculty compliance with these ideological standards—and to teach students as well that the pursuit of diversity and inclusion are more important than the actual subjects of their courses.  Donohue and Maggitti’s claims about “community” are a smokescreen for this effort to impose progressive orthodoxy on faculty and students alike.

We write in the hope of convincing Villanova to rescind this new rule. We write also to bring to broad attention the attacks on Sheehan and Wilson that followed publication of their newspaper op-ed.  It is growing ever more difficult for faculty members to stand up for academic and intellectual integrity, not just at Villanova but at colleges and universities across the country where progressive administrators in league with progressive faculty members misuse their authority in attempts to silence the expression of opinions they dislike.

Genuine academic freedom is under siege in American higher education. The public sees this when prominent individuals are shouted down, mobbed, or disinvited.  But the problem is much deeper than those highly visible events.  Like an iceberg, most of it is invisible because it is below the waterline.  What Sheehan and Wilson did was show the public how political correctness is enforced in ways that usually are visible only to the victims.  Adding leading questions as a litmus test to course evaluations is an especially underhanded way to make faculty members conform to illiberal rules. The “community” that Villanova’s administrators would foster is a community of fear.

The words “diversity” and “inclusion” lack any precise definition. They are, rather, flags that are waved to assert the claim that race, ethnicity, and identity groups are and ought to be preeminent in American life. A great many Americans, however, reject this diversity ideology and uphold instead other principles such as shared citizenship based on the rules of law. Those who disagree with the diversity doctrine should not be forced to salute its flag on orders of college administrators. 

We call on Villanova University to recognize that intellectual freedom is a fundamental value that cannot be set aside in the pursuit of community enthusiasm for “diversity.” We also call on Villanova University to reject the shallow conceit that race, sex, or any other group identity can serve as a proxy for “intellectual diversity.”

And we call on Villanova’s president, provost, and board of trustees to announce their full confidence in Professors Sheehan and Wilson.

Sign the petition!


Jay Bergman, Central Connecticut State University
W. B. Allen, Dean and Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University
Paul Rahe, Hillsdale College
Jacob Howland, University of Tulsa
Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Bucknell University
Lucy E. Moye, Hillsdale College
Henry McCullough, Bucknell University
Isabella Carrega, Bucknell University
Robert George, Princeton University
Alexander Riley, Bucknell University
John Angileri
David Bradshaw, University of Kentucky
James Lehnen
William Gruver, Bucknell University
David Kinnear
Derek Fake
Jakob Biever, Bucknell University - Student
Daniel Van Horne, Bucknell University
Luigi Bradizza, Salve Regina Unversity
Dylan Brandt, The Heritage Foundation
Lee Oser, The College of the Holy Cross
Manning Martus, Bucknell University – Student
Joshua Hren, The Honors College at Belmont Abbey
Darryl L Tippens
Joseph Wysocki, Belmont Abbey College
Ryan P Williams, The Claremont Institute
Thomas R Hafera
Michael Gos, Lee College
Jeff Polet, Hope College
Margot Beck, Bucknell University
Christine Basil, Belmont Abbey College
Jennifer Kabbany
Predrag Tosic, Whitworth University (F-T faculty) and Washington State University (an Adjunct)
Dominic Borda
Patricia Bart, Hillsdale College
Jonathan VanGeest, Kent State University
Cheyenne Plott
Brian Courtney
Mickey Gene Craig, Hillsdale College
Sara Matheson
Tyler Williams, Villanova University
Ilya Safro, Clemson University
Alex Simonelis, Dawson College
Edward F. Poole 
Mary Jo Poole
Eric Karson, Villanova University
George Avery
Mickey G. Craig, Hillsdale College
Brian Satterfield, Villanova University
Jason Wilson
Raymond R Murphy, Villanova University
Aaron Luther
Philip Terzian '73
Michael Long, Georgetown University
Ann Klunzinger Heilman
Timothy Carroll, Bucknell University
Todd Hartch, Eastern Kentucky University
C.C. Pecknold, The Catholic University of America
Jared Ortiz, Hope College
Joseph Knippenberg, Oglethorpe University
Joseph Manson, UCLA
Frank Wilson
Douglas B. Rasmussen, St. John’s University
Brenda Hafera, The Fund for American Studies, Villanova Alumna
Tim Davis, University of West Florida, Retired
Dave Lull
Paul Jaminet
Paul E. Honeycutt
Dana Gioia, University of Southern California
Alice Ramos, St. John's University
Scott Fontaine
Marie I. George, St. John's University
Kelly Cosenke
Gary Alvino
Rose Pimentel, Villanova Alumna
Craig Hudak
Kelly Cosenke
Gary Alvino
Rose Pimentel, Villanova Alumni
Craig Hudak
Lorin Burte
Phoebe S. Spinrad, The Ohio State University, Emerita
Franklin Harvey, Westmoreland County Community College and Community College of Allegheny County
Michael Trigoboff, Portland Community College
Joseph Gordon
Timothy Burns, Baylor University
W. Douglas McMillin, Louisiana State University, Emeritus
Margaret King
David Kovacs
Bruce Frohnen, Ohio Northern University College of Law
Michael Spivey, University of Puget Sound
Bradford Wilson, Princeton University
Catharine Savage Brosman, Tulane University Emerita
Robert Gordon, Johns Hopkins University
Barry Smith, SUNY
Daniel Klein, George Mason University
Charles Connell, Cornell College (Iowa), Emeritus
John McGinnis
John Gist, Western New Mexico University
A.F. Mc Gann, University of Wyoming
George W. Dent, Jr., Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Michael J Kliegman, Fordham University
Matthew Nickerson
William Dembski
Gary Jason, California State University, Fullerton
Steven E Rhoads, Emeritus Professor of Politics University of Virginia
Lenard Eisenberg, Chicago State University
John Dale Dunn, Lecturer Emergency Medicine Carl R Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas
Rachel Fulton Brown, The University of Chicago
Michelle Kamhi
Edward Gehringer, North Carolina State University
Emily Barsh
David Deavel, the University of St. Thomas
Henry Bleattler, The King's College
J. Michael Bailey, Northwestern University
Gordon E. Finley, Florida International University, Emeritus
John J. Laukaitis, North Park University
Walter Block
Lawrence Brunner, Central Michigan University
David C. Innes, The King's College
Thomas Pangle, the University of Texas at Austin
Robert Jackson, Great Hearts Academies
Susan Kleine, Western New England University
Martin D. Yaffe, University of North Texas
Cortes DeRussy
Donald Gochberg, Michigan State University, Emeritus
Patrick Coby Smith College
Thomas G. Dineen III
Walter J. Duncan, University of Alabama Emeritus
Maarten van Swaay, Kansas State University, Retired
Donn Taylor
David Goodblatt. The University of California, San Diego, Emeritus
Anthony Nicastro
George Backus, The University of California, San Diego
Thomas Mann
Philip Carl Salzman, McGill University
Mark G. Altomari, Villanova ‘74
Dennis Hale, Boston College
James B O'Neill
David Bryant
Gloria Sampson, Simon Fraser University
Bruce Deitrick Price
George Hagedorn, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Clifford Wagner, Penn State University
James Donovan, Penn State Mont Alto
Marianne S. Aiken
Thomas Miller
Cynthia L Haven
Kevin D. Hoover, Duke University
George Seaver
Sylvia Wasson, Santa Rosa Junior College
Bruce John Chester, Villanova Alumnus
Curt Stiles, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Robert Grando
Norman Lillegard, University of Tennessee
Paul Cantor, University of Virginia
Rob Whitley McGill University
James J. Pacchioli, Santa Monica College
John Broom, Norwich University CGCS
Joseph Schulman
Jim Rogers, Louisiana State University at Alexandria
Charles Bloomer
Roy Barkley, The University of Texas at Austin, Emeritus
Daniel Landau, Santa Monica College
Clyde Burnham
Robert Faulkner, Boston College
Henry Schaedler
George Zilbergeld
John Briggs, UC Riverside
Carol Tharp, Northwestern University
Michael Bennett, Curry College
David E. Williams, Oregon State University
Richard G. Combs
Thomas Broderick
Olympia Gonzalez, Loyola University of Chicago
Robert Clifford
Svetozar Pejovich, Texas A&M University
Ronald E. Stackler
Dennis Saffran
Stan Liebowitz, The University of Texas at Dallas
James E. Moore, II, Viterbi School of Engineering, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California
Frank Tinari
Dermot Brendan Nagle, University of Southern California
R. Lawrence Purdy
Robert F. Hebert, Auburn University, Emeritus
Gabriel J. Gardner, California State University Long Beach
J. Thomas Lockhart
S. M. Hutchens
Timothy Fuller, Colorado College
David Talcott, The King's College 
Robert G. Kennedy, University of St. Thomas
Sean Patrice
George Lewis, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Philip Cohen, Temple University
Peter D. Beaulieu
Joseph McElrath Florida State University
David Rothman
Emmett Holman, George Mason Univ. (emeritus)
Bruce Brasington, West Texas A&M University
Frank Dineen
Allen Martin
Frank Harrison
Cargill Hall, Emeritus Chief Historian, National Reconnaissance Office
Warren Treadgold, Saint Louis University
George Glauberman, University of Chicago
Robert Osburn
Henry H. Bauer, Virginia Tech, emeritus
David Bradshaw University of Kentucky
Charlotte B Bassett
Edmund P Taylor
Kris Larsen
J. Daryl Charles, Acton Institute
Gardiner Pearson
Dennis Gouws
Robert Michael
Stephen Robinson
William C. Mackenzie
George Wiley
John Redwine
Paul Mueller, The King's College
Chris Ellis, Bucknell University
Tracy Mackin
Steven Grosby, Clemson University
Bruce Heiden, Ohio State University
Steven Jolivette
Steven Frankel, Xavier University
Robert L Paquette, The Alexander Hamilton Institute
Thomas Hansen, Wellesley College
Helaine Smith, The Brearley School, Retired
Fred Friedel
Suzanne Bowles
Richard Louis Swallow
Stanley Trimble, UCLA, Emeritus
Timothy Carroll
John Beahrs, Oregon Health and Science University
Andrew Spiropoulos, Oklahoma City University
William Race
Ruth Steyn
Steven Kreisman
James Bradfield
Michael Betsch
Stephen Burns, U.S. Naval Academy
Michael M. Uhlmann, Claremont Graduate University
Wilfred McClay, University of Oklahoma
John C. Wenger, Harold Washington College, Retired
Peter Galie, Canisius College
Paul Parlato, Wittenberg University, Retired
J. R. Hall, University of Mississippi
Ronald L. Barndt
Jay Bergman, Central Connecticut State University
Henry JB Dick, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Lydia Barcelo

John C Eastman

| April 06, 2019 - 3:25 PM

Thanks for standing up for academic freedom.

Dwight Lindley

| April 06, 2019 - 3:58 PM


Brian Satterfield

| April 06, 2019 - 4:32 PM

The authors are exactly correct that these questions are bing used to target and drive out the most well meaning dissidents.  Truly troubling.

Balog Stephen J.

| April 06, 2019 - 9:24 PM

Outrageous chilling of free speech.
Academics and scholarship should be primary.
Ideological indoctrination and policing have no place in colleges and universities.

Brenda Hafera

| April 07, 2019 - 2:18 AM

Such evaluations undermine liberal education. Thank you for having the bravery to write this article.

Ronald Smith, CLU, ChFC

| April 10, 2019 - 2:25 PM

It’s sad to see such an assault on Liberal eduscation at Villanova.

What’s happening to free speech at our universities is alarming!

Frederick Turner

| April 11, 2019 - 7:02 PM

The first moves in creating an informer society. There are two ways they can be countered: by creating a community within the infected society unconnected with the issue at stake that is more interesting and lively than that of the commissars, and by ridicule. In a similar situation in one institution, I wrote a very comical satirical play that indirectly depicted a parallel story, and had it performed in the university’s theater. By the time the targets realized what it meant, it was too late. It worked. People were laughing.

George Hagedorn

| April 19, 2019 - 1:21 PM

Only speech with which one disagrees is in need of protection,,,

Thank you, NAS !

Dr. Sylvia Wasson

| April 19, 2019 - 1:27 PM

Thank you, NAS, for a most succinct summary of the police state tactics that are increasingly in force at colleges and universities across the country.

Asking students to evaluate their professors on how well they pursue and realize “diversity” and “inclusion” in their approach to teaching is nothing short of bullying and coercion on the part of the college administration. It is the killing of both intellectual and academic freedom.

Kudos to professors Sheehan and Wilson for publicly opposing Villanova University’s offensive and illiberal tactics to enforce the “diversity” orthodoxy among its students and professoriate.

And again, big Thank You to the NAS for its relentless exposure of this alarming trend in higher education.

Carol Tharp, MD

| April 19, 2019 - 1:42 PM

This is everywhere today. I fight it in the American Academy of Dermatology, the Dermatology Foundation, the AMA, at Northwestern and every academic institution of which I am a part. The highly educated follow like sheep to the slaughter.  It seems more than we can comprehend, a veil of deception. I admire your efforts to restrain it.

John Mason

| April 19, 2019 - 2:15 PM

beginnings of 1984

John Eastman

| April 19, 2019 - 2:29 PM

Frederick Turner:  I would love to see the play you wrote. Is it available someplace?  Can you provide a link?

Lyle Wescott

| April 19, 2019 - 3:37 PM

It is especially prevalent in the soft sciences and liberal arts.  Not so much in hard sciences, mathematics or engineering but it is to be abhorred in any event.

Lyle Wescott Professor of Chemistry, Christian Brothers University (retired)

Allen Schwenk, Western Michigan University (retire

| April 19, 2019 - 4:07 PM

Diversity means unifrrmity
Inclusion means exclude anyone who disagrees.

Lawrence Squeri, East Stroudsburg University

| April 19, 2019 - 5:02 PM

Our society is slowly drifting into a police state.  We should recall that in Fascist Italy, once Mussolini was entrenched, he could avoid using the police to enforce conformity.  Fascist vigilantes would take matters into their own hands.  We are creating this society here in America.  The government doesn’t persecute;  the dirty work is done by private citizens.

Dr. Sylvia Wasson

| April 19, 2019 - 6:40 PM

Allen Schwenk: You are absolutely correct. “Diversity” and “inclusion” mean exactly the opposite of what they purport to signify: they enforce conformity of opinions and exclude divergent views.

By making “diversity” and “inclusion” an integral part of both the hiring and evaluation of faculty, they become a litmus test of adherence to progressive values. Fascism and its flip-side Marxism are thus becoming ever more embedded in the American university.

Few Americans outside of higher education know the full scope of this strangling of liberty on our nations’ campuses. Few grasp how successful the American university has been in turning generations of young people against their own country.

It is an American tragedy of major proportions— a crisis that cannot be brought to the public’s attention often enough.

Gerald Gillespie

| April 19, 2019 - 7:23 PM

I agree with my colleagues who oppose the universal imposition of ideological conformity over every field of teaching and research. That is the slippery pathway toward totalitarianism.

Sandra Keating

| April 20, 2019 - 7:07 AM

Thank you NAS for standing up. I am edified and encouraged by those who are uniting to stop the onslaught of totalitarianism. Our own college has been turned into a training ground for activists, practically overnight. It’s hard not to despair, but this offers a glimmer of hope.

Howard M. Leftwich, University of Cincinnati, Emer

| April 20, 2019 - 4:00 PM

I have long been thankful for NAS leadership in the fight against intellectual tyranny in disguise.

John McAdams

| April 20, 2019 - 4:09 PM

The response of the Villanova president is interesting, and revealing.  He claims that “diversity” simply means having different views expressed.  Which means he is either lying, or horribly naive about the “diversity” agenda and what it really means in academia.

theodore krismann

| April 21, 2019 - 7:55 PM

Inclusion? Why is there no H in lgbtqia, etc.? Are Heterosexuals excluded? Freedom to express opinions is fine but suppression of opinions to protect “feelings” is one step closer to the loss of the freedoms uniquely American.
BA Amherst College
MBA Columbia University

Thomas Shuford

| April 23, 2019 - 1:39 PM

Heather Mac Donald’s The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture is a frightening look at how “diversity and inclusion” ideology is being implemented.

If you are concerned about the future of this nation—- and the West, you need to wrestle with what she’s turned up.