The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Academic Freedom, Academic Diversity, and Research Integrity at UCLA


The National Association of Scholars has submitted a comment to the WASC Senior College and University Commission, which is currently accrediting UCLA. We urge WSCUC to call on UCLA to admit wrongdoing in the case of Jim Enstrom and implement reforms to prevent similar violations of academic freedom.

Social Justice Comes to Harvard

George Seaver

In this long-form essay, independent researcher George Seaver expounds the many reasons for academic decline within Harvard University since the 1960s.

Polar Bear Researcher is Unbearable According to the University of Victoria

Peter Wood

The University of Victoria has fired Susan Crockford, a zoologist and adjunct in the anthropology department, for what appears to be a politically motivated mauling. 

Academic Freedom in the Age of Double-Mindedness

Peter Wood

The Overton Window should be at its widest in the academy but rarely is that the case. In this acceptance speech, Peter wrestles with how to widen that window.

Letters to the Big Three: Don't De-Platform Scientists

Peter Wood

A scientist "blacklist" has caused concern about the de-platforming. 

In Defense of Amy Wax

Peter Wood

Too many foolish people have too much invested in believing the worst about the Penn Law Professor.

Corporate Wolves in Academic Sheepskins, or, a Billionaire’s Raid on the University of Tulsa

Jacob Howland

A sordid little tale of crony capitalism under the guise of public philanthropy.

Disinviting Scholarship


The U.S. Army War College disinvited scholar Raymond Ibrahim as deference to CAIR. This sets a dangerous precedent that threatens American interests and endangers the lives of American soldiers.

Some Good News for Advocates of Intellectual Freedom

Christopher Kendall

Six brave students take a stand for intellectual freedom. 

Academic Freedom Must Be Preserved


An open letter to the president, provost, and board of trustees of Villanova University to rescind a recent rule that enforces ideological conformity and threatens academic freedom. 

Criticizing Confucius Institutes


Three new reports from the federal government and from the UK reiterate NAS’s concerns: Confucius Institutes need to go. 

Unorthodox Ideas


The Winter 2018 issue of Academic Questions at a glance. 

Work on Federal Student Aid Reform and Free Speech

Rachelle Peterson

Congress should reform student aid and protect intellectual freedom. 

Opposing Communist Chinese Spies Isn’t Racist

Rachelle Peterson

Is it racist to protect American colleges from foreign meddling? 

Angri-culture and Disagreement

Peter Wood

Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on the state of intellectual freedom in the United States. 

Aim Higher Act: Setting Lower Standards for Higher Ed


An analysis of the House Democrats' alternative to the PROSPER Act. 

NAS Applauds the Univ. of North Florida’s Decision to Close Confucius Institute


Following questions from Senator Marco Rubio, the University of North Florida becomes the ninth US university to close a Confucius Institute.

An Open Letter in Support of a Besieged Academic


Rachel Fulton Brown seems unusually friendless as she defends against derisive epithets from colleagues and hecklers. NAS is calling for academics and their institutions to sign this letter in her support.

Turkey's Disappearing Miracle

Chance Layton

Turkey's universities strengthed academic freedom over the last three decades, now it faces extinction. What went wrong?

Oregon Campuses Need Intellectual Freedom

Bruce Gilley

NAS Oregon Affiliate President Bruce Gilley writes in support of the PROSPER Act.

NAS Submits Testimony on Confucius Institutes


NAS policy director Rachelle Peterson submits written testimony to the United Kingdom on Confucius Institutes.

A Giving Tree's Unknown Clauses


NAS sends an open letter to George Mason University urging President Cabrera to hire an external investigator.

NAS Applauds Ted Cruz's Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act


NAS is pleased to see the introduction of this new bill which provides further transparency of foreign governments' activities on American campuses.

George Mason University's Confucius Institute: A Letter to GMU's President

Peter Wood

GMU's Confucius Institute has many strings attached and deserves to be added to the list of gifts being investigated by the GMU president.

How China's regime is meddling in American higher education

Rachelle Peterson

More information about how China uses Confucius Institutes to spread the regime's whitewashed version of its history and policies.

A New Script for Shoutdowns

Peter Wood

An NAS member's observations on a heckle-down at UCLA.

CUNY's Lawless Law Students


NAS writes to the City University of New York's Chancellor, James Milken, following the no platforming of Josh Blackman.

Honoring Academic Courage: An Evening with Amy Wax


Join NAS on Thursday, April 12, 2018 when we honor Professor Amy Wax for her academic courage. 

NAS Statement on Free Speech Resolution at Lewis & Clark Law School


After invited speaker Christina Hoff Sommers was shouted down, some faculty at Lewis & Clark Law School want to protect intellectual freedom.

Why a Penn Professor Was Vilified for Telling the Truth About Race

Peter Wood

These days, saying uncomfortable truths aloud can get you banned from teaching First Year law students.

Another Incoherent Protest This Time by Law Students

Peter Wood

At Minding the Campus, NAS President Peter Wood writes about the lack of consequences that protesters face after disrupting campus speakers.

The Real Fallout From High School Walkouts

Peter Wood

Writing at Minding the Campus, NAS President Peter Wood discusses how student walkouts subordinate education to the quest for power.

Chilling Sommers: Another Blow to Discourse

Emina Melonic

At American Greatness, Emina Melonic asks what can be done about the increasingly frequent suppression of speech by indoctrinated college students.

Professor Amy Wax in the News


NAS Board Member Amy Wax's 2017 op-ed is still making waves in 2018.

A Resource for Donors Seeking Best Ways to Give

Martin Morse Wooster

Martin Wooster recommends NAS to donors as an organization that promotes intellectual diversity on college campuses.

Anti-Israel Protesters Disrupt Event at UVA

Peter Wood

A panel featuring Israeli military reservists was shouted down last Thursday night at the University of Virginia.

Peter Wood Discusses Threats to Academic Freedom on Fox and Friends


NAS President Peter Wood appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss our report, Charting Academic Freedom, as well as the biggest threats to academic freedom.

Academia is Overdue for a Reality Check

Emina Melonic

Emina Melonic writes at American Greatness about academic ideologues and the desire to deny reality and truth.

National Association of Scholars Releases New Resource for Academic Freedom


RELEASE: Today marks the release of a first-of-its-kind reference for academic freedom, and an important resource for those standing against the threat of intellectal conformity in American higher education.

NYC Launch Tomorrow for Charting Academic Freedom


Join NAS on Thursday, February 1 for the release of our newest report, Charting Academic Freedom: 103 Years of Debate

UConn Coddling Students

Jay Bergman

NAS board member, Jay Bergman, writes to the President of the University of Connecticut. 

Charting Academic Freedom: 103 Years of Debate - 2/1/2018 in New York City


Join us in New York City for the launch of NAS’s latest project, Charting Academic Freedom, a comparison of every major statement on intellectual freedom over the last century. 

Professor's Racial Harassment of White Student was 'Personal'

Dion J. Pierre

A Native American professor at San Diego State University racially harassed a white student, the California State Department of Justice concluded last week.

David Horowitz: Battlefield Notes from a War Gone Unnoticed

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews David Horowitz's new book, "The Left in the University."

Protecting Academic Freedom Through All the Campus Smoke

Peter Wood

Protecting freedom of speech means shielding it from the left and the right. 

Campus Speech and Anti-Klan Laws


NAS Member Jay Weiser writes on the legal remedies available to preserve free speech on campus.

Censorship: Another Cheap Chinese Import We Don’t Need

Rachelle Peterson

Efforts to censor Cambridge University Press show how far the Chinese government will go to stifle intellectual freedom. 

Penn Dean to Law Prof: We Favor Free Speech, but Not Yours

Peter Wood

Amy Wax comes under fire for defending the traditional bourgeois values of family, civic-mindedness, hard work, and respect for authority. 

Mizzou Madness: A Case Study of Non-Diversity, Non-Freedom, and Non-Academics in Higher Education

J. Martin Rochester

The entirety of a five-part essay, Mizzou Madness: A Case Study of Non-Diversity, Non-Freedom, and Non-Academics in Higher Education, by political scientist J. Martin Rochester.

The Declining Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness

J. Martin Rochester

The fifth of a five-part essay, Mizzou Madness: A Case Study of Non-Diversity, Non-Freedom, and Non-Academics in Higher Education, by political scientist J. Martin Rochester.

The Declining Commitment to Academic Freedom and the Free Exchange of Ideas

J. Martin Rochester

The fourth of a five-part essay, Mizzou Madness: A Case Study of Non-Diversity, Non-Freedom, and Non-Academics in Higher Education, by political scientist J. Martin Rochester.

Courageous Conversations?

J. Martin Rochester

The third of a five-part essay, Mizzou Madness: A Case Study of Non-Diversity, Non-Freedom, and Non-Academics in Higher Education, by political scientist J. Martin Rochester.

College Reinstates Professor Who Said White People Should "F***ing Die"

Peter Wood

NAS's Peter Wood and Dion Pierre write that Trinity College, along with other schools around the country, needs to draw a line between legitimate and illegitimate claims of academic freedom.

One-and-a-Half Cheers for Claremont McKenna

Rachelle Peterson

Rachelle Peterson applauds the school's decision to discipline several students who obstructed free speech and calls for increased vigilance from all college administrators to protect free speech.

Legal Help for Professors and Students


The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has won many legal victories to protect academic freedom and free speech on campuses.

Five Telling Campus Outbreaks of the 2016-17 Academic Year


Peter Wood comments on troubling stories from American higher education this past academic year.

How College Bureaucrats Tyrannize a Professor Who Crosses Them


Peter Wood provides an update on an intellectual freedom case at Springfield College.

OAS Releases Statement on Proposed "Cultural Competency" Training

Glenn Ricketts

NAS's Oregon affiliate cites threats to academic freedom.

Evergreen No More

Peter Wood

An experimental college loses its needles.

The Map of Academic Freedom

NAS Director of Communications David Randall writes about the Academic Freedom Chart.

Finding Academic Freedom

Peter Wood

A new chart by NAS that traces the changing meaning of academic freedom.

How to Stop Complaining and Start Fixing America's Higher Education Crisis

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood surveys higher education's problems and offers solutions. 

American Universities Are Welcoming China’s Trojan Horse

Rachelle Peterson

Rachelle Peterson writes on China's use of soft power to influence students at American universities. 

Harvard Prepares to Host All Black Graduation

Dion J. Pierre

Is Harvard's all black graduation a benign trend or a step backwards? 

NAS President Peter Wood's Letter to Claremont McKenna College President Chodosh

Peter Wood

After students at Claremont protested the speech of Heather Mac Donald two weeks ago, what do free speech and academic freedom mean at Claremont Mckenna?

The Middlebury Paradox


NAS President Peter Wood explores why campus riots like Middlebury's cannot be stopped by the Left.

Middlebury Admissions Tells Alumni How to Talk About the Protest Over Charles Murray

Rachelle Peterson

A new document tries to guide conversations about Charles Murray's visit to campus. 

Can Federal Funding Leverage Free Speech?

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood writes about the possibility of removing federal funding from universities that do not protect intellectual freedom.  

Trumporially Deranged

Peter Wood

Do our commonalities outweigh our differences? NAS President Peter Wood discusses anger in America today and his hopes for higher education.

Seven Types of Suppression


NAS president Peter Wood writes on free speech and censorship in The New Criterion. 

College Students Need Better Lessons Than 'All of Your Emotions Are Real'

Ashley Thorne

After the election, colleges turn to feelings, not civility, to guide discussions on winning and losing.

The President of Portland State University Upholds Intellectual Freedom

Chance Layton

President Wim Wiewel explains in an email to students that the University is committed to free speech, peaceful protest, and "robust debate."

How Diversity Came to Mean 'Downgrade the West'

Are students gaining anything by replacing the universalism of the West with the particularism of diversity?

Academic Freedom Absolutism at the University of Chicago

Spencer Kashmanian

The University of Chicago's "no safe spaces" letter lacks the philosophical grounding for the academic freedom it champions. 

Rose Must Fall: Censorship at UCT

Ashley Thorne

The University of Cape Town has dealt another blow to academic freedom. 

Free Speech v. Free Speech

Rachelle Peterson

Many of the opponents of free speech believe they are its champions.

Final Advice for the Untenured Conservative Humanist

Mark Bauerlein

Part 3: Service. When you join a committee, you either make your colleagues' workdays easier or make them harder. If the latter, they will remember the fact and it may very well come up at tenure time.

More Advice for the Untenured Conservative Humanist

Mark Bauerlein

Part 2: Teaching. Sage-on-the-stage, the flipped classroom? No need for that. Just avoid a few crucial missteps. Plus: How to raise your students’ grades without inflating them. From First Things. 

Some Advice for the Untentured Conservative Humanist

Mark Bauerlein

Part 1: Research. If you are an untenured humanities who is also a religious or social conservative, the bar is set higher for you. Mark Bauerlein is here to offer advice to the untenured professor. 

The Death of Campus Free Speech -- and How to Revive It

It’s getting harder to tell the difference between real news about colleges and the Onion’s parodies. 

Summer 2016 Academic Questions: Infringements


The new issue of Academic Questions features essays depicting intrusions on free inquiry, freedom of thought, freedom to teach, and freedom to learn.

The New Age of Orthodoxy Overtakes the Campus

Peter Wood

The greatest threat to academic freedom today is the campus "social justice" machine, writes Peter Wood in his review of Joanna Williams' Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity.

A Most Curious Document

John E. Staddon

John E. Staddon analyzes the shortcomings of the Report of the Duke University Task Force on Bias and Hate Issues.

Race Relations, Liberal Bias, and Safe Spaces on Campus

Ashley Thorne

Three stories from the last week all have one thing in common; can you guess what it is?

BDS: Boycotting Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne

NAS Executive Director Ashley Thorne explains how boycotting Israeli academic institutions leads to the politicalization of learning and limits academic liberty. 

Virginia Tech Relents and Re-Invites Jason Riley to Speak on Campus

Peter Wood

Virginia Tech felt the pressure and re-invited Jason Riley to the podium.

Wood Speaks on Chicago's Morning Answer Radio Show


Peter Wood spoke about campus protesters on Chicago's Morning Answer radio show.

Stanford Students: Offering Western Civilization Classes Destroys Diversity

Rachelle Peterson

A pro-Western civilization petition at Stanford was met with stiff resistance.

The Drive to Put Western Civ Back in the College Curriculum

Ashley Thorne

Ashley Thorne writes for the New York Post about some Stanford students' push for a Western civilization course.

Are Colleges Wasting Endowment Funds on Virtue-Signaling?

Rachelle Peterson

Political posturing is inappropriate to institutions of higher education.

College Students Want to Ban “Uncomfortable” Ideas

Chance Layton

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, a study shows students prefer closed minds over intellectual virtues.

A Guide to Disinvitation: My Conversation with Williams College President Adam Falk

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood discusses his correspondance with Williams College's President Falk in light of the disinvitation of John Derbyshire. 

Thoughts on "The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom"

Francis B. Randall

Professor Francis B. Randall comments upon NAS President Peter Wood's "The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom."

Dialogue on "Architecture": John K. Wilson and David Randall


John K. Wilson and David Randall discuss NAS President Peter Wood's "The Architecture of Academic Freedom"

The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom

Peter Wood

A statement on the place and importance of intellectual freedom.

BDS Movement Suffers a Setback

Chance Layton

The American Historical Association voted against a resolution to condemn Israel. 

American Association of University Professors Abandons Educators Under Siege

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood writes about how defenders of academic freedom leave campus lynch mob victims to fend for themselves.

Dear Future Conservative Professor

Robert Maranto

The academy needs ideological diversity, and conservative students should be undaunted in participating at the higest level. 

Videos: "Inside Divestment" Launch


A first look at the launch of "Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement to Turn a Generation Against Fossil Fuels."

Video: Heritage Foundation Panel on Fossil Fuel Divestment


Rachelle Peterson joins a panel hosted by Dr. David Kreutzer with Dr. Stanley Kurtz and Brendan Williams about the campus divestment movement. 

Rachelle Peterson on WSJ's Opinion Journal


Rachelle Peterson takes viewers inside NAS's new study on the fossil fuel divestment campaign. 

Ohio Scholars Meet


Adam Kissel spoke with the Ohio Association of Scholars.

A Conservative's Defense of Tenure

David Randall

David Clemens writes as a conservative in defense of tenure.

Conforming Higher Education

Rachelle Peterson

Joanna Williams asks what “academic freedom” protects, if there is no truth for academics to seek? 

The University of Chicago's Flawed Support for Freedom of Expression

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood criticizes Chicago's misframed statement supporting freedom of expression.

Faculty Tenure: Improve It, Don't Remove It

W. Lee Hansen

W. Lee Hansen argues that revisions to faculty tenure must be objective and preserve academic freedom. 

Room for Debate: NAS and 350.org

Peter Wood

Peter Wood comments on 350.org's response to Rachelle Peterson's recent piece about the college divestment movement.

Diversity Clauses for UCLA

Ashley Thorne

Ashley Thorne shows how UCLA's priority on diversity puts pressure on faculty members' academic freedom. 

The Enigma of Tenure

Malcolm Kline

Malcolm Kline calls tenure into question.

Why College Professors Need Tenure

Professor Russell Eisenman argues that tenure is a necessary safeguard for professors.

Two Controversial Professors

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reflects on the contrasting perspectives at the AAUP and Heartland Institute conferences in Washington, DC last week.

Brainwashed at Bowdoin: Anti-Israeli Boycotters Miss a Teachable Moment

William A. Jacobson

Bowdoin's boycott of Israel failed, but anti-Israel protesters count it as a win.

A Setback for BDS

Peter Wood

Students at Bowdoin College show concern for academic freedom by voting against an anti-Israel BDS movement.

Academic Freedom at U Chicago and Princeton

Robert P. George

NAS board of advisors member Robert P. George applauds two universities for embracing academic freedom. 

Academic Freedom on Trial: Adams v. UNCW and the Welcome Erosion of Garcetti

Mike Adams

Mike Adams writes for Academic Questions on his legal victory against UNCW and how this case has served to advance academic freedom.

Stanley Fish's New Book on Academic Freedom

George Leef

George Leef reviews Versions of Academic Freedom and argues that there does not have to be a single, one-size-fits-all approach to academic freedom.

Marquette's Reputation at Stake

Peter Wood

The Jesuit university in Milwaukee rebuked a professor for blogging about what another instructor said to a student about discussing homosexuality in class. 

Academic Freedom in a Time of Silencing

Ashley Thorne

Today academic freedom is an embattled principle as campus guardians of political correctness wield the power to hush discussion of subjects they don't like. 

Winter 2014 Academic Questions Features Special Section, "God and Guns"


The special section of the winter 2014 Academic Questions highlights campus attitudes toward guns and religion.

Stanley Fish's Postmodern Take on Academic Freedom

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood reviews Stanley Fish's latest book, Versions of Academic Freedom.

The New Problem of Higher Education: The Foreign-Based Institute

James A. Stever

James A. Stever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Cincinnati, discusses the potential dangers of foreign institutes such as the Confucius Institute.

The Collision Between Academic Freedom and Freedom of Contract: the Salaita Case

George Leef

George Leef offers his perspective on whether a university should have the freedom to decline to employ those who seem more interested in espousing political beliefs than in teaching.

University Should Never Be a "Safe Space"

Christopher Beckett

University of Liverpool student Christopher Beckett observes how an obsession with safety has undermined academic freedom in UK universities.

Why Brooklyn College Business Dean “Cut Bait” on Koch Proposal

Ashley Thorne

The Brooklyn College business school dean refused to approve a grant proposal drafted by Mitchell Langbert.

New York Times Covers the Exclusion of Christians at Bowdoin

Michael Toscano

Advocates of traditional marriage face serious obstacles to free expression at Bowdoin College.

Climatologist David Legates Testifies to US Senate

Glenn Ricketts

An AGW skeptic tells his story to a Senate subcommittee

Climate Thuggery at the University of Delaware

Jan H. Blits

The University is broadly committed to protecting its faculty from intrusive FOIA inquiries - provided they're on board with AGW orthodoxy

The White House War on Men

Peter Wood

Rule of thumb: If a woman alleges sexual harassment, she is telling the truth. 

New Book: End of Academic Freedom


Three scholars have written a new book that identifies the forces that are subverting higher education's mission.

Mike Adams and the Seven Years' War

Marilee Turscak

After a seven-year legal battle between Mike Adams and UNCW, the federal jury has ruled in Mike Adams' favor in what it concluded was a clear case of discrimination.

NAS Member Robert Paquette Receives Award for His Defense of Academic Freedom


National Association of Scholars member Robert L. Paquette received the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom.

The HHS Mandate and Religious Liberty: An Update

Adèle Auxier Keim

This piece is a follow-up to “The HHS Mandate and Religious Liberty: A Primer,” which was included in the Winter 2013 AQ.

Academic Justice and Intellectual Thuggery

Peter Wood

Academic freedom once meant protection from politics; now it means protection for politics.

Boxed In: The Destructive Evolution of Campus Free Speech Zones

Joshua Bridges

Many college campuses have implemented "free speech zones," but these zones do anything but protect free speech.

Permission to Speak: College Presidents, the Israeli Boycott, and Climate Change

Rachelle Peterson

Examples of the ASA and ACUPCC show that college presidents, in addressing controversies, are at times compelled to reiterate politically correct views on issues such as the Israeli boycott and climate change.

Top-Down or Bottom-Up? Winter AQ Issue Examines Campus Progressivism's Origins


The last issue in Academic Questions' 2013 volume considers the sources of progressive ideology on campus.

ASA and the Politicization of Academe

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood explains why NAS won't boycott the boycotters: academia is meant to argue and persuade, not merely to get the upper hand by any means necessary.

NAS Opposes American Studies Association Boycott of Israel

Peter Wood

Members of the American Studies Association are voting on an academic boycott of Israel, which would violate academic freedom. 

A Serious Blow to Academic Freedom--No Outcry, Though

Peter Wood

The latest in the attacks on Mark Regnerus is a court decision that utterly undermines scholarly peer review.

Why Mitch Daniels Was Wrong

Peter Wood

The president of Purdue University recently apologized for speaking at an event held by a conservative think tank. He shouldn't have apologized, says Peter Wood.

Kudos: Amherst President Defends Free Speech

Glenn Ricketts

Amherst College president Carolyn Martin stands tall in defense of free expression.

Can Civility and Academic Freedom Coexist?

Ashley Thorne

Civility calls for restraint, and academic freedom, apparently, for lack of restraint. Colleges and universities strive for academic freedom and civil discourse; can they have both at the same time?

CUNY Chancellor Defends Academic Freedom


CUNY's chancellor has made a statement defending the academic freedom of professors to teach without intimidation and harassment, after NAS wrote an open letter urging him to do so.


Re: Petraeus – An Open Letter to CUNY Chancellor William Kelly

Peter Wood

The university must actively stand against threats to academic freedom.

University of Virginia's Hostility to Coase, Buchanan, et al.

George Leef

A look back at the University of Virginia's economics department in the 1960s.

APSA Takes on Citation Discrimination

Glenn Ricketts

The American Political Science Association brings gender equity to scholarly citation.

Why Mitch Daniels Was Right

Peter Wood

Is Mitch Daniels against academic freedom? Dr. Wood doesn't think so.

Sexual Harassment--The Feds Go Way Too Far

Peter Wood

Peter Wood evaluates the implications of the federal government's "breathtakingly broad definition" of campus sexual harassment.

Controversial Courses and Academic Freedom

George Leef

Donald A. Downs weighs in concerning academic freedom in the Ball State University controversy over science and religion.

Ward Churchill: Still Fired

Glenn Ricketts

The sacked former ethnic studies professor loses another round.

Merchant Marine Prof Punished for Flippant Remark

Ashley Thorne

His remark about the Aurora shootings was thoughtless but not worth dismissal.

The Regnerus Affair at UT Austin

Peter Wood

A scholar whose research identified disadvantages for children of same-sex marriage faces opposition by those who dislike his findings.

Unfashionable Ideas

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the National Association of Scholars’ changing approach to reforming higher education.

Gay Marriage, Climate Change, and Academic Freedom

Peter Wood

Peter Wood regrets higher education’s one-sided approaches to same-sex marriage and global warming.

OCR Harassment Guidelines And Campus Policies: The Latest

Glenn Ricketts

The implementation of OCR's campus harassment guidelines unfolds.  Bad gets worse.

U California President Yudof Says Political Advocacy Is a Problem

Ashley Thorne

At a press conference UC president Mark Yudof declared his commitment to ideology-free education. Charles Geshekter of the Caliofornia Association of Scholars asked him to say so in a memo to the UC Board of Regents.

One Year Later: OCR Stonewalls Objections to New Harassment Guidelines

Glenn Ricketts

Despite strong protests from NAS, FIRE and the AAUP,  OCR says nothing about its new harassment requirements

FIRE Lists Rogues' Gallery of Free Speech Offenders

Glenn Ricketts

FIRE presents its list of the 12 most repressive campuses for freedom of speech.

Orwellian Brooklyn College Seminar Calls Conservatives Reactionary

Mitchell Langbert

Brooklyn College continues to suppress conservatives in word and deed.

Are Outside Donors Dangerous to Academe?

George Leef

Mr. Walter dismisses the claimed threat of outside influence on academic matters.

John Stossel Interviews Illinois Affiliate Head Jonathan Bean

Glenn Ricketts

The leader of the Illinois Association of Scholars is eloquent on the subject of business & race.

A Law Professor Takes On the Victimhood Industry

Hans Bader

Hans Bader describes the Byzantine case of law professor Lawrence Connell, who's in big trouble for actually defending himself against preposterous harassment charges.

Emmer and Keeton--Two Terrible Decisions on Academic Freedom

KC Johnson

Historian KC Johnson explains why it's been a very bad week for academic freedom.

No Evidence of Sexual Harassment? Guilty, Says the Dean

Glenn Ricketts

Professor Arthur Gilbert, a long-time, highly regarded faculty member in the University of Denver's Joseph Korbel School of International Studies is still seeking vindication, following his outrageous treatment by senior DU administrators.

Harvard Prof Loses Summer Session Courses Because of "Offensive" Op Ed

Glenn Ricketts

We learn from this IHE piece that Harvard economist Subramanian Swamy was apparently pretty distressed by last summer's hotel bombing in Mumbai, India by Muslim extremists. Swamy gave full vent to his feelings in a lengthy op ed piece there, arguing that Muslim terrorists were his native land's most pressing security problem. Shortly thereafter, he was in big trouble at Harvard where a group of Muslim students took offense and demanded that the university terminate his employment immediately. That didn't happen, but his faculty colleagues did an end-around by removing Swamy from the two courses he was slated to teach in the summer session for 2012. So: he hasn't been sacked, but he can't teach at Harvard either. His views, as one administrator termed them, are "destructive." I'll certainly grant you that they're controversial, but also well within the limits of controversy that an academic institution ought to be able to tolerate. It's good to see that many commenters in the response thread agree.

Why UCLA’s Firing of a Lone Dissenting Voice Should Worry Us

Geoffrey C. Kabat

The treatment of James Enstrom, whose research threatened environmental activists' efforts to enact regulation, illuminates the politicization of science.

Is Tenure the Root of All Evil?

George Leef

No, but it's responsible for much that is wrong in higher education, argues Naomi Schaefer Riley in her recent book The Faculty Lounges.

FIRE Wins Major Free Speech Victory at UW/Stout

Glenn Ricketts

The news about free speech and free expression on college campuses these days is often depressing, but today, there's some good news, thanks to our friends at FIRE who've persuaded the UW/Stout administration to abandon the heavy-handed censorship imposed recently on a theater arts professor. 

Professor Cronon Email Investigation Seems to Turn Up Empty

Ashley Thorne

In March the deputy executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party filed an Open Records Law request to see emails from University of Wisconsin history professor William Cronon's university account. 

Science, Faith, and Academic Freedom: Erskine College Swats a Gadfly

Peter Wood

A professor's dismissal raises questions about whether religious colleges can protect both academic freedom and a creedal mission.

Mean Professor Fired by Sensitive College

Glenn Ricketts

Do you teach at a "caring" college where Students Come First? Apparently, Valdosta State University in Georgia is one such, and recently demonstrated how they deal with professors who don't care, as this IHE piece reports. Not only was this fellow sacked, he was also brought up on battery charges, for which he was acquitted. So what had he done that cost him his job and landed him in the docket? Apparently, he's one of those (full disclosure: so am I) who thinks that students shouldn't be net-surfing on computers during lectures, and he closed the lap-top of one rude young lady who was doing so. The jury rightly concluded that the case was ludicrous from the start, and never should have come to court. But they've got higher standards at Valdosta State, and didn't let simple justice stop them from terminating this hapless prof's employment. Legions of students testified as to his stellar teaching abilities, but he apparently wasn't very sensitive, and that's what really counts with the administration at Valdosta State.

Widener Law Professor Wins, Still Loses

Glenn Ricketts

As Ashley Thorne reported earlier this week, Widener University law professor Lawrence Connell can't seem to get a break. Although he was vindicated of the frivolous charges of racial and sexual harassment lodged against him at the behest of law school dean Linda Ammons, he's still in the soup. 

Kudos to the AAUP

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood applauds some recent policy statements by the AAUP.

AAUP Publishes Official Policy on Campus Controversies

Ashley Thorne

The final version of the association's statement skews the principle of academic freedom and fails to implement good faith recommendations.

Jan Blits on Campus Liberty

Ashley Thorne

At a recent gathering of college students, Professor Jan Blits, NAS's Delaware affiliate head, urged students not to take liberty for granted.

Widener Law Professor Exonerated

John Irving

A Widener University faculty and administrative commmittee unanimously cleared law professor Lawrence Connell of racism, sexism, and charges that he was a danger to students.

NAS Delaware Head Jan Blits Keynotes Tomorrow at FIRE Conference

Professor Blits, who helped end the University of Delaware's ideological residence life program, will speak to students and others at the conference of the Campus Freedom Network.

Academic Freedom Update: Widener Prof Sues Two Students and Law School

Ashley Thorne

Lawrence Connell sues "student radicals who want me punished for expressing politically incorrect thoughts in an unabashedly liberal campus."

Tyranny or Theft? Part I

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood begins a three-part critique of the sustainability movement, based on his attendance at two recent conferences.

Yale to Reinstate Study of Antisemitism

Glenn Ricketts

Recently, my colleague Ashley Thorne reported here on Yale University's abrupt decision to terminate a program devoted to the study of antisemitism. The program was the only one of its kind in the United States and seemed to be flourishing. So why was it terminated? Apparently because a recent conference had included an examination of antisemitism within parts of the comtemporary Islamic world. This prompted a letter from Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO's representative in the US, to Yale president Richard Levin, protesting the university's abettment of "anti-Arab extremism and hate mongering." A short time later, the program was toast.

But word comes today at Inside Higher Education that Yale has reconsidered. A new institute for the study of antisemitism is in the works. You can also read about it here at the CHE.

That's good news, and I'm glad that Yale and president Levin have had a change of heart. I also wish, though, that they hadn't caved in the first place.

What is Advocacy?

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood discusses classroom advocacy and academic freedom.

Suppression for Thee, Free Speech for Me

Mitchell Langbert

I sent this letter to the editor of the faculty newspaper of the City University of New York, The Clarion.

Untenuring Tenure

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs Naomi Schaefer Riley’s arguments for abolishing tenure in her book The Faculty Lounges.

Update on Widener Law Prof Lawrence Connell

Ashley Thorne

One of Connell's students defends him from the charges of racism and sexism, and Connell asks for a public, under-oath hearing.

CUNY Trustees Stand Up Against Faculty's Anti-Israel Sentiments - In Vain


A statement of NAS's affiliate the New York Association of Scholars on the Kushner controversy.

Video: Tom Bethell on Scientific Orthodoxy

"Grant-seeking is enforcing a tremendous orthodoxy within the academic world in science, which is precisely where orthodoxy should not be maintained."

The Smog of Reprisal

Peter Wood

A UCLA whistle-blower lost his job after he called attention to a flawed report about air pollution.

Widener Law Prof Sues Dean for Defamation

Ashley Thorne

Lawrence Connell, who was suspended after students complained about his teaching methods, is now suing the university for attempting to damage his reputation and deny him academic freedom.

Quote of the Day

Ashley Thorne

From a letter to the editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin.

Cronon's Whirlwind

Peter Wood

Efforts to access a professor’s e-mail may be petty but aren’t necessarily a violation of academic freedom.

Widener Dean Pursues Punishment for Law Prof Who Used Hypotheticals in Class

Ashley Thorne

A press release by Lawrence Connell's lawyer states that Dean Ammons is ignoring the recommendations of the faculty committee to drop charges against Professor Connell.

Widener Committee Advises: Withdraw Charges Against Law Prof Who Used Hypotheticals to Teach

Ashley Thorne

The committee of inquiry at Widener University recommends that charges of racism and sexism against Professor Lawrence Connell be dropped.

The Robinson Allegations

NAS is making inquiries into the serious allegations against OSU faculty members made by Art Robinson in a statement yesterday on World Net Daily.

Editor Accused of Libel Wins in Paris Court: Victory for Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne

The progress of ideas was vindicated in a decision in favor of an academic journal editor who published a book review that the book's author found unflattering.

Donald Downs on the Battle in Madison

George Leef

University of Wisconsin professor Donald Downs (author of the excellent book Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus) has an essay on Minding the Campus in which he discusses the battle taking place in Madison. Do college professors ever use their courses to propagandize on political issues? That's just a right-wing myth, say many defenders of the higher education establishment. Read the essay and you'll learn that quite a few of Downs' UW colleagues could not resist the temptation.

Bloggers Pick Up Connell Interview

Ashley Thorne

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit picked up Ashley Thorne's interview with Professor Lawrence Connell from Volokh, and Paul L. Caron at TaxProf Blog also weighed in.

The Beck-Piven Controversy

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the angry debate over Glenn Beck’s criticisms of Frances Fox Piven.

Hypotheticals in the Criminal Law Classroom: An Interview with Lawrence Connell

Ashley Thorne

Professor Lawrence Connell at Widener University has come under fire for referring hypothetically in class to killing the dean. Here he tells his side of the story.

What Happened? Academic Freedom at a Christian College, Chico State's Diversity Action Plan, Counseling Student Opposed by ACLU

Ashley Thorne

We revisited some of our articles to find out what happened after we wrote them. Here’s what we learned.

NAS Delaware Affiliate President Jan Blits Receives Academic Freedom Award

Ashley Thorne

We congratulate Professor Blits on being honored for his courage in challenging political correctness at the University of Delaware.

How Frances Fox Piven and Glenn Beck Incited Righteous Indignation in the Academy

Ashley Thorne

Peter Wood has a column on the Piven-Beck controversy in today's Chronicle. He writes, "Beck’s attention to Piven has driven much of the media interest in the story—but also much of the interest among faculty members, a great deal of which has been overheated." 

We Should Not Punish People for What We Think They Might Do

Ashley Thorne

Brooklyn College appointed Kristofer Petersen-Overton as an adjunct professor to teach "Politics of the Middle East," then fired him, apparently because of his politics. NAS defended Petersen-Overton's academic freedom, noting that "rescinding the appointment of an instructor on the basis of complaints about the likelihood of his future bias strikes us a serious misstep and a very bad precedent." Hours after we posted our article, Petersen-Overton informed us that Brooklyn College would be announcing its decision to reinstate him unconditionally. 

Freedom and Standards at Brooklyn College: The Case of Kristofer Petersen-Overton

Mitchell Langbert

Sharad Karkhanis's Patriot Returns, which goes to 13,000 CUNY faculty and staff, published a recast version of my piece on the Kristofer Peterson-Overton matter that was covered in The New York Post, New York Daily News, New York Times, and Inside Higher Education. Brooklyn College's president, Karen Gould, decided to hire Petersen-Overton after the administration initially rescinded his contract. 

Suicide Bombers and Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne

Brooklyn College appointed an adjunct professor to teach "Politics of the Middle East," then fired him because of his politics.

Reassembling Shakespeare's Fair Friend

Peter Wood

Did Shakespeare encode the name of his fair friend in his Sonnets?

$125,000 Settlement for "Potentially Evangelical" Astronomer

Ashley Thorne

An astronomer settles a lawsuit with the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination.

Is Academic Freedom a License to Indoctrinate?

Peter Wood

The more license faculty members take to act like political agents in the classroom, the more society will treat them as just that.

'Potentially Evangelical'

Peter Wood

Peter Wood draws attention to a lawsuit brought against the University of Kentucky by an astronomer who claims he was denied appointment because of religious bias.

Academic Freedom? We're All Conservatives

Glenn Ricketts

Stanley Fish seems to be seeking the middle ground on revisions to Penn State's policy authorized by the faculty Senate, and now awaiting approval by PSU's president. Particularly unfortunate was the removal of a provision stipulating that academic freedom did not grant professors license to indoctrinate their students or to use their classrooms as bully pulpit for flogging their favorite political or social issues.  NAS is dismayed.

Reforming Our Universities

Peter Wood

A review of David Horowitz's new book Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights.

What Makes Academic Freedom Tick: A Reply to John K. Wilson

Steve Balch

Steve Balch replies to a critique of his recent article (with Ashley Thorne) on academic freedom and the controversy at Penn State.

Penn State and Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne

Penn State is revising its statement on academic freedom to permit faculty members the right to bring one-sided opinions on controversial topics (unrelated to the course) to class. The radicalized AAUP thinks this is a good idea. NAS doesn't. 

Free to Indoctrinate: The AAUP Applauds Penn State's Retreat from Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne

Penn State is revising its statement on academic freedom to permit faculty members the right to bring one-sided opinions on controversial topics to class. The radicalized AAUP thinks this is a good idea. We don't.

LSU Covers Up for Astronomer Who Bullied Class: NAS Replies

Ashley Thorne

Corresponding with NAS, Provost John Maxwell Hamilton adopts the same false assertions made by the media to try to cover up for a professor who used his class to ridicule students based on their beliefs.

Media Rush to Defend LSU "Blood Will Be on Your Hands" Prof

Ashley Thorne

It is what it looks like - a video shows an astronomy professor ranting in class about global warming and attempting to humiliate students who disagree with him.

Holocaust Denial, Truth, and Academic Freedom

Ashley Thorne

Cary Nelson writes that "Holocaust denial is speech promoting falsity as truth." Oh, so truth is part of academic freedom, after all, Prof. Nelson?

HuffPo Article on Academic Freedom According to 1915 AAUP

Ashley Thorne

David Moshman, professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has an excellent article at the Huffington Post on what academic freedom means, according to the AAUP's 1915 Declaration of Principles. NAS has written frequently on this elusive meaning, and we agree with the 1915 Declaration. As one of the foremost defenders of intellectual liberty and sound practice in higher education, this is a theme close to our hearts. Moshman rebuts the common notion that academic freedom is a privilege strictly for tenured professors. Instead, he writes, the 1915 Declaration indicates that academic freedom:

(1) is intended to serve the common good, (2) relates specifically to matters of intellectual freedom, (3) applies to all teachers regardless of tenure status, and (4) applies to students as well.

Well-put, Professor Moshman. He expands on these points in his article. NAS has outlined our position on academic freedom, in which we affirm that students are entitled to academic freedom (there's even a word for this in German, Lernfreiheit). And we recently argued that anyone (including college administrators) who is committed to the search for truth through rational inquiry and dispassionate and scrupulous use of evidence deserves the protection of academic freedom.

Next Week in D.C.: Lukianoff Speaks to NAS Chapter

Ashley Thorne

Friends in D.C., we hope to see you on Monday, Nov. 1, when FIRE president Greg Lukianoff will address the D.C. chapter of the National Association of Scholars. He will speak on "CLS v. Martinez and the Campus Freedom of Association Crisis." To RSVP and for more details, see this flier.  

On Having the Right Academic Credentials

George Leef

Historian Tom Woods here discusses his kerfuffle with Indiana University when a student group wanted him to speak on his book regarding the recent economic crisis. The university initially said no on the advice of academics who sniffed that Woods does not have the right credentials to discuss that subject. Fortunately, the students did not back down and the talk (recounted in the piece) occurred. The infuriating thing about this is the academic mindset that only people who have the right sort of degree can possibly know anything about a subject; others should be kept away from students.

Keep Academic Freedom in Academia - Or Forfeit Freedom of Speech

Ashley Thorne

One of the dangers of bringing academic freedom under judicial authority is that doing so threatens First Amendment rights on campus, writes Steve Balch in a thoughtful new article. The recent efforts by Augusta State U and Eastern Michigan State U to censor Christian counseling students illustrate this. To learn more about these cases, see Alliance Defense Fund's "ADF to appeal ruling that allows Eastern Michigan U. to expel Christian students for holding to beliefs" and "Augusta State Univ. to counseling student: change your beliefs or get out."


Steve Balch

One of the dangers of bringing academic freedom under judicial authority is that doing so threatens First Amendment rights on campus.

Threats to Academic Freedom from Right and Left

Ashley Thorne

Bob Samuels reviews AAUP president Cary Nelson's book No University is an Island:

Not only did I discover this year that some administrators were receiving all of my emails, but, a couple of years ago, our campus had to fight an outside Right-wing group that was paying students to record teachers saying anti-conservative and "anti-American" things. If this was not bad enough, UCLA recently decided to set up their own internal web site so that students and other community members could report acts of bias. This type of digital surveillance system surely has a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Back on Track: U Illinois Reinstates Catholic Prof

Ashley Thorne

The University of Illinois has restored Professor Kenneth Howell to his position after dismissing him for an email he sent discussing Catholic teaching on homosexuality and natural law.

U of Illinois Reinstates Sacked Religion Professor

Glenn Ricketts

It's nice to be able to end the week on an upbeat note: the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign announced yesterdy that it has reinstated adjunct reilgious studies professor Kenneth Howell (read about it here in CHE). Howell had regularly taught a course in Catholic moral theology at U of I at U of I since 2001. He was summarily dismissed, however, following a complaint from a student - not actually enrolled in the course - who took issue with Howell's presentation of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. (see Peter Wood's account here). This was truly bizarre: without so much as interviewing professor Howell or any of the students actually taking the course, university officials removed him within days of receiving the complainant's second-hand version of Howell's conclusions, on the pretext that he had violated the school's principle of "inclusivity." I still don't know what that is, but it sure can get you into a lot of trouble. Anyway, following a public uproar and much well-deserved embarassment, U of I has rescinded his termination and offered him his customary teaching assignment for the Fall semester. The single change will be his direct employment and compensation by the University, rather than through the campus Catholic center, by which he was previously paid. All's well that ends well, as they say. The whole episode, though, should never have transpired to begin with. That it did tells you what truly bad shape academic freedom is in these days.

How to Preserve Free Speech on Campus

Glenn Ricketts

Check out this article by Daphne Patai over at Minding the Campus, in which she discusses the perilous state of free speech on American college campuses. There's been no end of dismal news on that account this week, so it's good to pass along these thoughts of someone who's been fighting the good fight on behalf of free expression for quite a while, and really knows the ropes. If it's getting hard to discuss controversial issues openly at your school because of the administration's reflexive "sensitivity" to selected ideological constituencies, Patai demonstrates that you don't have to sit back and let it happen. If you're familiar with her two important books, Professing Feminism and Heterophobia you'll know that she's walked the walk, as she does again here.

Human Heredity Hoopla at SJCCD

Candace de Russy

California taxpayers are now on the hook for  $100,000, which the San José/Evergreen Community College District (SJCCD) has agreed to pay an adjunct professor in lost earnings in exchange for dismissal of her First Amendment lawsuit. The background of the lawsuit? Sheldon had led a short discussion about the nature/nurture debate regarding sexual orientation in her Human Heredity course. She was then fired due to a student complaint and went to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for assistance. "This welcome settlement demonstrates that colleges cannot get away with punishing a professor for teaching relevant class material, even if a student finds it offensive," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. An aspect of this case worthy of the attention of NAS afficionados is the SJCCD's contention that Sheldon was teaching non-scientific material as science. In any event, congratulations to Sheldon and FIRE for persevering in this good fight. And condolences to CA taxpayers.

Another Comment on the Flap Over Grants to Teach Rand

George Leef

Philosophy professor James Otteson weighs in with some thoughtful comments here.

FIRE Scores Again for Academic Freedom

Glenn Ricketts

Our friends at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education continue their stellar work defending the academic freedom and First Amendment rights of college faculty members - especially untenured adjuncts - who collide with stifiling campus political orthodoxies. This time, they've scored against the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, which will have to pay 100K in lost wages to an adjunct instructor who was terminated in 2007 after a student complained that her brief classroom discussion of the origins of homosexuality was "offensive." The district will have to pick up the tab for legal expenses as well. Too bad for them - and the taxpayers who will carry theses costs - that they didn't simply respect the instructor's academic freedom in the first place. But while I'm glad that FIRE was able to intervene successfully in this case, I also wish that they and other organizations such as the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) didn't have so much work to do. This is getting to be a depressingly familiar scenario: 1) Instructor in a psychology or ethics course examines homosexuality or sex differences, says something that a student finds "offensive." 2) A complaint is forwarded at the speed of light to the administration, cc to the campus women's center, the dean of multicultural affairs or the LGBT office, who don't necessarily need to interview the instructor, but nevertheless agree that yes, yes, the classroom discussion was indeed "offensive." 3) The administration informs instructor that she's outta here. 4) Board of directors upholds administration, unimpressed by quaint ideas about academic freedom or First Amendment protections. Honestly, I wonder what the worst aspect of cases such as this one is. It's appalling, of course, that such an Orwellian intellectual climate exists on so many campuses, and the examples of outrages such as this one seem to pop up weekly. See Ashley Thorne's recent post detailing the latest incident involving a socal work student whose religious convictions ran afoul of a counseling program at Augusta State University in Georgia. But what about boards of trustees, such as the one in the San Jose/Evergreen case? What could they, as the governing bodies at a public institution have been thinking? Apart from the deserved embarassment their school has incurred and the hefty settlement costs they've handed to taxpayers, what does academic freedom or First Amendment protections mean to them? Not much, I have to conclude, since they upheld the administration's outrage, without apparently seeing it as such. Kudos to FIRE once again, which seems to have a much firmer grasp of the academic enterprise and its mission than do many of the people to whom it's been directly entrusted.

Keep John Galt Off Campus

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, my colleague Jay Schalin writes about the flap over the fact that some colleges have accepted funds from BB&T Foundation with the proviso that the money be used to support courses in which students will learn about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and in particular her defense of laissez-faire capitalism. The argument raised against this is that colleges are supposed to allow the faculty to decide upon curricular matters. Naturally, some professors who are adamantly hostile to the case for laissez-faire (although I doubt that many have ever read Rand's Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal or have heard a thorough explication of the damaging consequences of government interference in the spontaneous order of the free market) say that schools should shun BB&T money. Jay gets a whiff of double standard here, since professors on the left don't much complain about the importation of material into the curriculum they find congenial. Rather than a defense of princple, their stance seems to be an instance of selective indignation. Econ 101 is often taught as a dull, mechanistic and to many students baffling exercise in graphs and abstruse theories having little apparent relationship with life. Adding a BB&T catalyzed course that allows students to see how Rand and other advocates of laissez-faire (Ludwig von Mises, e.g.) looked at economic questions would be a beneficial offering. Colleges should be open to the marketplace of ideas. Like the marketplace of goods and services, sound ideas tend to win out and unsound ideas tend to be rejected. (I say "tend" because it doesn't happen automatically. After all, we still have cigarettes in stores and professors who preach socialism.) John Allison of BB&T is trying to get colleges to open their curricula to another idea (or set of ideas). No harm in that.

The Illinois Railroad: Making Quick Work of a Catholic Prof

Peter Wood

U Illinois should restore Professor Howell to his classroom both for his own sake and for the quality of academic inquiry and classroom teaching throughout the university.

Dispatch from the Tenure Wars

David Clemens

Writing in the Wall Street Journal (June 18), Timothy Knowles, “a former teacher, principal and district leader” laments the difficulty of eliminating “low-performing teachers.”  Granted, there are abundant reasons for tenure reform at the K-12 level.  College, however, is a different matter. Marketing his new book, Cary Nelson, spear point of the AAUP, says

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, devout believer that you only have academic freedom and free speech if you have job security.  If you don’t have job security, you can’t speak out forcefully, and I think that means academic freedom will be diminished.

I rarely agree with Dr. Nelson, a fellow I find usually animated by left-wing, social constructivist, and Sixties sentiments, but in this case he is right. Mr. Knowles paints administrators as ex-teachers called to a higher mission.  However, in college, many administrators have little or no classroom experience, and Mr. Knowles seems oblivious to just how political, punitive, and self-serving careerist administrators can be (just look at how many of the cases at FIRE originate from administrative excesses).  Without tenure, my campus would have no discernible conservative voice at all.  I would have been fired by at least three different college presidents for a variety of transgressions:  organizing the faculty union, suing the college, publically criticizing multiculturalism, openly opposing “student learning outcomes.” Students can survive a poor teacher (how many great teachers are there?), but they can’t survive a university monoculture that is an ideological echo chamber.  Tenure may sometimes protect incompetent knaves but, where it still exists, tenure also protects vital intellectual pluralism.

Science, Academic Freedom and Public Funding

Glenn Ricketts

Several weeks ago, NAS President Peter Wood took note here of the inquiries by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who had announced his intention look into the use of reasearch funds granted by the Commonwealth to controversial Penn State climatologist Michale Mann. In light of the so-called "climategate" revelations last Fall, Cuccinelli declared that there were sufficient grounds to justify an investigation of Mann's grant proposal to determine whether or not he had used fraudulent data in applying for public funding to underwrite his research . A firestorm of controversy arose, complete with grim comparisons to the trial of Galileo, the burning of witches and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. When Peter offered tentative and carefully qualified support for Cuccinelli's inquiries, a spirited discussion arose among our regular readers as well. The issue is still very much alive, and Slate carried a piece the other day by its senior editor Dahlia Lithwick and University of Virginia law professor Richard Schragger, who argue there that academic freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. We've never bought this position, and have elaborated our view of academic freedom frequently, as Peter did in this explication last year. We continue to believe that the AAUP's 1915 declaration holds up very well: academic freedom certainly covers the right of scholars to defend and advocate positions within their fields, even though these may run counter to the established wisdom, if they believe their research leads them to such conclusions. But academic freedom, in this understanding, does not entitle a scholar to hold court in the classroom on current political trends, the outcome of the world series or his part-time job as a bowling alley repair specialist. If he teaches at a public university, he can step out into the common area where the First Amendment protects his right to declare himself on these matters and just about any others as well. But neither the First Amendment nor academic freedom entitle any researcher, scientific or otherwise, to unscrutinized and unaccountable public funding. We've certainly yielded to no one in our own defense of traditional academic freedom, and we'll continue to stick to our guns. At the moment, though, the issue seems highly confused, and I hope I've been able to at least clarify our position on it.

To Serve Mann: Virginia

Peter Wood

Is the climate fraud investigation a breach or an exercise of academic freedom?

Administrators and Academic Freedom

Peter Wood

Anyone who is committed to the search for truth through rational inquiry and dispassionate and scrupulous use of evidence deserves the protection of academic freedom.

Libel Tourism En Vacances

Peter Wood

A French court puts an American editor on trial over a German book review that offended an Israeli scholar. Hmm...

Video: Saving Freedom on College Campuses

Steve Balch

Watch NAS chairman Steve Balch's remarks at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference on preserving liberty in higher education.

Blacklisting a Christian University

Ashley Thorne

The AAUP's Canadian counterpart, the CAUT, has declared that Trinity Western University's statement of faith deprives faculty members of academic freedom. We disagree.

Kaleidoscope or Rubik's Cube? The AAUP's Academic Freedom Scholarship

Ashley Thorne

NAS congratulates the AAUP on the launch of its new Journal of Academic Freedom.

Social Role of the University...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

A 1962 newspaper clipping recaps the message of a campus speaker who asked, "What is the university's fundamental social obligation?"

FIRE Reports: U Minnesota Promises Not to Mandate Beliefs

Ashley Thorne

The Foundation for Individual Rights has announced that the University of Minnesota, in response to a letter from FIRE, promised that "[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with 'wrong beliefs' from the University." The FIRE letter was prompted by a proposal for the university's school of education, to be voted on in January, that would require all ed students to study “white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” NAS wrote about it here. FIRE is cautiously optimistic about the university's response. While warning that "The next version of the college's plans must reflect this promise," it has declared a victory for freedom of conscience. The letter from General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg, however, gives cause for continuing concern. Rotenberg asserts that the university holds the right, under academic freedom, to "engage in creative thinking, dialogue, and advocacy with respect to a broad range of ideas for improving P-12 education." He added, "Academic freedom means little if our teaching faculty is inhibited from discussing and proposing curriculum innovations simply because others find them 'illiberal' or 'unjust.'" Rotenberg is right to praise the exchange of different and competing viewpoints. But U Minnesota needs to be more thoughtful about its proposals. Even illiberal brainstorming can take root when it results in public documents ready for approval. Take Virginia Tech, for example. Its  College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences recently came out with a "Strategic Diversity Plan" that aimed to put in systems for logrolling; provide incentives (some monetary) for faculty and staff to take part in diversity activities and for departments to make faculty hires; implement College-wide diversity course requirements; and enact racial preferences in spite of a Virginia Tech ban on affirmative action. It is not clear what bureaucratic hurtles remain for the Diversity Plan's approval or when it is likely to be granted (although the general CLAHS Strategic Plan has already endorsed the Diversity Plan), but it is clear that such a plan, if approved, will leave Virginia Tech's intellectual integrity in ruins. So no, proposing illiberal or unjust "curriculum innovations" is not as benign as Rotenberg would like it to sound. But for now, we join with FIRE in encouragement over the University of Minnesota's promises not to mandate particular points of view.

It's Not a Magical Incantation

Ashley Thorne

Gary A. Olson of Idaho State University has a good article on "The Limits of Academic Freedom" at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. An excerpt:

One chair described a senior professor who missed a substantial number of her classes. When confronted with evidence of her absenteeism, she told her chair that as an academic she had the freedom to conduct her courses in any way she deemed appropriate. [...] The magical incantation—"I'm protected by academic freedom"—is thought to offer instant indemnity. [...] Some people confuse the constitutional concept of freedom of speech with the less grandiose notion of academic freedom, but they are two distinct concepts. Academic freedom is limited to the confines of academic discourse while free speech is a broad constitutional right central to our democratic system of government. [...] Academic freedom is a right we should all cherish because it ensures an environment of free inquiry. That is precisely why we must guard against attempts to make the concept so limitless, so capacious, that it loses its power to protect the academic enterprise. When academic freedom becomes all things to all people, then it becomes nothing at all.

Cary Nelson: Stealth Conservative?

Peter Wood

Three comments responding to his article "The AAUP: A View From the Top."

Signing on to FEAR

Peter Wood

NAS endorses the AAUP statement "Free Expression at Risk, at Yale and Elsewhere."

Political Correctness Versus Academic Freedom

George Leef

Economics professor Walter Block doesn't accept the politically correct feminist doctrine that the average earnings differential between men and women is due to employment discrimination and for that he has been pilloried as a "racist" and "sexist" by the administration at Loyola of New Orleans. Then, when he tries to clear his name and defend his position, the administration clams up. Read about it here. Academic liberals used to boast that they spoke "truth to power." Now that they're in power, they turn out to be a bunch of intolerant authoritarians.

Academic Freedom Forum

Peter Wood

This article, originally posted at MindingtheCampus.com, is a response, added to those of others, to University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer's recent speech on academic freedom.

Teaching Can Be Dangerous

Ashley Thorne

Cross-posted from NAS.org, "An Unsuccessful Education Can Ruin You": The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article, "Course Reminds Budding Ph.D.'s of the Damage They Can Do," about a seminar taught at the CUNY Graduate Center on the ethics of teaching. Steven M. Cahn teaches the class, and he seeks to dispel the notion that all education is innocuous:

"People often think that education works either to improve you or to leave you as you were," Mr. Cahn says. "But that's not right. An unsuccessful education can ruin you. It can kill your interest in a topic. It can make you a less-good thinker. It can leave you less open to rational argument. So we do good and bad as teachers—it's not just good or nothing."

Cahn discusses with his small class the meaning of academic freedom ("How free should instructors be to proclaim their beliefs in the classroom? And how sensitive should they be to their students' personal commitments?") and the question of university neutrality ("Do colleges have an institutional duty to stay out of certain public debates? Or is that kind of neutrality actually undesirable or impossible?"). His students enjoy tackling these issues; as future professors, the subjects they consider in Cahn's seminar will soon become very real for them. This course covers the very same fundamental higher education debates in which the National Association of Scholars has found a voice for the last twenty-two years. These are conversations well worth having - they ponder "What does it mean to be a university of integrity?" The existence of the CUNY seminar is encouraging. Now if only all faculty members and administrators took this course, perhaps we'd have a better foundation for teaching the next generation.

"An Unsuccessful Education Can Ruin You"

Ashley Thorne

A CUNY graduate professor teaches education ethics; his students discuss the meaning of academic freedom and the question of university neutrality. Now if only all faculty members and administrators took this course...

Academic Freedom and Advocacy

Ashley Thorne

Over at NAS.org, we've got a nice debate going between NAS and University of Alaska Professor Richard Steiner. After I wrote about him in "Sustainability Skepticism Has Arrived," I contacted Professor Steiner to let him know about the article. He subsequently wrote to the University's president Mark Hamilton to challenge him to a debate over academic freedom:

President Hamilton – Given recent circumstances, I would like to invite you to debate with me, openly and publicly, re: the issue of academic freedom, and the influence of corporate donations to the university. You have said many things in support of academic freedom over the years, but when push came to shove in my case, you made a decision in opposition to free speech. In 2002, you received an award for your support of academic freedom from a group calling itself the “National Association of Scholars”, who it turns out, actually opposes sustainability movements on today’s college campuses. They say that sustainability is “deceptive, coercive, closed-minded, a pseudo-religion, distorts higher education, shrinks freedom, programs people, is anti-rational, by-passes faculty, and is wasteful.” This group apparently supports free speech only when they agree with what is spoken, and opposes it when they disagree with what is spoken. Apparently this is your position as well. That you chose to accept an award fro this group calls into serious question the progressive character of the University of Alaska. All of this is an extremely serious transgression of the very role a university is supposed to fulfill in civil society. I look forward to your reply, and to debating this issue publicly and honestly. Sincerely, Rick Steiner, Professor

His challenge to President Hamilton, as well as his response to NAS which we posted unedited on our website, called into question our dedication to academic freedom. NAS president Peter Wood responded here. He wrote:

And, yes, we support the right of Professor Steiner to speak his mind about sustainability, but his academic freedom gives him no follow-on right to accept public funding under false pretenses.  Sometimes we have to make choices.  Taking money for scientific investigation and then using it to fund political advocacy isn’t an exercise in academic freedom.  It is, at best, an act of deviousness.  It sounds to me like a form of academic dishonesty, not an act of academic freedom.  But let me hold that criticism in abeyance.  If Professor Steiner can defend his actions without twisting the terms of academic freedom into self-serving knots, let him do so. 

We hope this exchange will open up the doors of debate over the role of advocacy in higher education and the true meaning of academic freedom.

Neander-Thoughts: Reply to Steiner

Peter Wood

Does academic freedom mean I can ignore the terms of my grant? University of Alaska Professor Richard Steiner thinks so and challenges the NAS to rescind an award to a university president who got in his way. We won't. Here's why.

Richard Steiner Responds

Richard Steiner

The University Alaska professor who was denied grant funding for engaging in sustainability advocacy responds to the NAS.

Ideologues vs. Principles

Peter Wood

Check out my article at NAS.org, "Sustainability Skepticism Has Arrived." I juxtapose two news stories from this week on challenges to the sustainability doctrine:

These stories are parallel. Both Michael Pollan and Richard Steiner were caught off guard when challenged, then played the victim in the name of academic freedom—a skewed version of academic freedom. When David Wood sought to open Cal Poly’s eyes to the ideological agenda Pollan proselytizes, Pollan and others accused the university of cravenly capitulating to demands from the big bad corporate world. And when NOAA identified Steiner as going outside Sea Grant parameters by engaging in advocacy, Steiner said the University of Alaska had put a “gag order” on him.

If you are interested in helping the NAS expose the truth about the campus sustainability movement, send our list of “10 Reasons to Oppose the Sustainability Movement on Campus” to students, parents, faculty members, administrators, and news media.

Sustainability Skepticism Has Arrived

Ashley Thorne

Two controversies this week wrought an unexpected clash between sustainability ideologues and universities that decided to stand on fundamental principles of higher education.

Highway or Can Opener?

Peter Wood

Be sure to check out the text of Peter's speech, "Academic Freedom and Discontent," for the Alexander Hamilton Institute, now posted on the NAS website. In it he contrasts the progressive and traditionalist versions of academic freedom:

To understand the enduring popularity of this one core academic doctrine amidst the ruins of so many other core doctrines we have to recognize that “academic freedom” means one thing to academic traditionalists and something radically different to academic progressives. Traditionalists view academic freedom as something like a limited access highway. It permits great freedom of movement, but it has its own rules and it doesn’t go everywhere. Academic freedom is not a license for driving west in the eastbound lane, for parking your car in the median, or careering recklessly across the road. Progressives, on the other hand, view academic freedom as something like a can opener. It is good for opening things up and that’s about it. [...] Neither of these views is, on its face, laughably wrong or without merit. Taking possession of a civilizational inheritance and liberating oneself from the dead hand of the past are both worthy if somewhat contradictory goals. But when it comes to academic freedom, I believe the traditionalists have the stronger case.

Academic Freedom and Discontent

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood delivered this presentation at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization in February.

"Academic Freedom is Not a License for Bigotry"

Ashley Thorne

A professor is bullied out of a job because of her controversial views, but NYU upholds academic freedom.

Chastening Churchill: The Justice of Judge Naves

Peter Wood

Why academic freedom is not a defense for Ward Churchill.

Exchange Counter

Peter Wood

Meet Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition uninterested in free exchange on campus.

Virginia Tech Follies, Synergy Edition

Peter Wood

VT gives three new reasons as to why it has made the promotion of

Princeton News

Peter Wood

Students protest Professor Robert George and National Organization of Marriage

The Antagonym Explained

Ashley Thorne

A new paper by Donald Downs at the Pope Center defines "Academic Freedom: What It Is, What It Isn

Snitch Studies at Cal Poly: We Snare Because We Care

Peter Wood

The university launches a new bias incident reporting system to enforce "respect."

The Classroom Without Reason

Douglas Campbell

The following essay is a "Report from the Academy" which was published in Academic Questions (volume 22, number 2).

A College Board Does Its Job

Steve Balch

DuPage adopts a policy statement based on the Academic Bill of Rights.

Thursday The Complet

Peter Wood

Tea Parties, maintaining a belief system, UNC apologizes, grade inflation, coming soon, and Atkinson's war

Wednesday? Oui, Monsieur

Peter Wood

Vapor trails, lifeboats, higher ed on the brink, filtration at Virginia Tech, death to apostates, disappointment at Chapel Hill, and new Cognitive Science Network

Proven Commitment to the Climate

Ashley Thorne

Colleges get ready to use a “climate action litmus test” in hiring new campus leaders.

Virginia Tech, Academic Freedom, and Employment Law: Part 3

Tom Wood

In the third and final part of this series, Tom Wood examines the many non-legal objections to Virginia Tech

Harvey for Harvard

Ashley Thorne

Harvey Silverglate is running for Harvard

Suitable for Framing

Ashley Thorne

FIRE, student paper, CHE, and John K. Wilson weigh in on Virginia Tech diversity requirements for promotion and tenure.

Cracking the Speech Code

Greg Lukianoff

At the national NAS conference in January, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, spoke on the state of free speech and civil liberties on campus. Here is the text of his speech, rich in links and civil liberties cases, where he correlates the rise of the speech code to the rise of college administrators.

Free to Agree

Peter Wood

Academic Freedom Is a Public Trust

Steve Balch

Steve Balch calls for public vigilence against abuses of academic freedom. Here are his remarks on accepting the Jeane Jordon Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award from the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Canada Gets It Right

Ashley Thorne

Queen's College terminated its Intergroup Dialogue program when it was found to invite conversation-policing.

"Ask God What Your Grade Is"

Ashley Thorne

A professor at LA City College shouts down and attempts to expel a student for supporting Proposition 8.

Stanley Fish and the Storm in Ottowa

Peter Wood

Professor Fish blogged in the New York Times about Dennis Rancourt, a self-described anarchist and an advocate of

Cold Brine: The College Board Loses Its Senses

Peter Wood

The College Board recently unveiled a new goal for America - that by the year 2025, 55% of Americans should have a college degree. But is that achievement the right solution to save America's place in international competition?

Political Correctness Run Amuck

Candace de Russy

Candace de Russy tells the story of a professor fired for voicing political views outside the classroom.

Observations at Manchester

Ashley Thorne

What does NAS have to say about a private Christian college? NAS takes a tour through Manchester.

If I Ran the Zoo X

Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball summons us to call the "spade" a spade, and to seek truth free of "theory."


Ashley Thorne

A blogger aims to subvert NASW and social work ideologues.

Miscarriage of Academic Freedom?

Ashley Thorne

A Yale student's senior project raises questions about higher education's approach to art.

Freedom Bound: The AAUP Presidential Election

Peter Wood

After interviewing AAUP presidential candidates Cary Nelson and Tom Guild, Ashley Thorne and Peter Wood conclude that one creed can be used with two opposite meanings. That said, NAS hopes to see the AAUP return to its original definition of academic freedom.

A Response to the AAUP's Report, "Freedom in the Classroom"

The American Association of University Professors released its Report on 11 September 2007. In that document, the AAUP provides cover for teachers who introduce extraneous, often politically tendentious material into their classes. To rationalize such behavior, the AAUP argues that truth is whatever the members of an academic discipline say it is. In our response, the NAS executive director and president take issue with that and other AAUP contentions.