Faculty Fight for Academic Freedom at Harvard

NAS Celebrates New Council on Academic Freedom

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars is delighted that 52 Harvard University professors have formed a Council on Academic Freedom. This group will “advocate for the free and civil exchange of ideas on campus” by promoting the principles of free inquiry, civil discourse, and intellectual diversity. Harvard, no less than other universities, needs professors who defend intellectual freedom—and freedom in general. But because Harvard is Harvard—the oldest and most respected college in the country—the creation of the Council on Academic Freedom sends a message that will reverberate throughout American higher education.

That message is that faculty everywhere face a choice: either to fight for academic freedom or to watch it disappear. Those who imagine that academic freedom will continue without special efforts to preserve it are mistaken. American higher education is sinking into a morass of ideological conformity. A great many faculty members dislike having to endorse views they privately disagree with, avoid subjects that activists say are off-limits, and apologize for imaginary infractions—but they see no practical way to resist. The creation of the Council on Academic Freedom shows that there is indeed a way to resist.

NAS hopes that this new group will inspire many imitators, perhaps even outside the academy. The crisis of intellectual unfreedom in American higher education, after all, has spread beyond the campus to corporations, the media, government, the arts, and public life generally. Americans once expected that the people in charge of our institutions would protect them from the waves of irrational and destructive enthusiasm that sometimes come crashing over our republic. Not this time. The class currently granted with American leadership is, by and large, complicit with those who reject our freedoms in favor of shortcuts to what they say is "justice." Even tenured professors at Ivy League universities have been subject to such dishonorable treatment, as when the Harvard administration resorted to shady maneuvers to punish Roland Fryer.

The Council’s initial announcement notes that they will “sponsor workshops, lectures, and courses” on academic freedom and support colleagues under fire. Their main tools will be “persuasion and debate” and the whole project will be led by the faculty. These are constructive first steps. NAS hopes and expects that, in time, the Council on Academic Freedom will go further and join the efforts of external advocacy groups for academic and intellectual freedom such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or (indeed) the NAS.

Photo by Somesh Kesarla Suresh on Unsplash

  • Share

Most Commented

May 18, 2023


Letter: In Defense of Professor Scott Gerber

The Ohio Northern University’s senior administrators have treated Professor Scott Gerber appallingly by removing him from campus without due cause—a clear abuse of......

May 9, 2023


More Title IX Mischief

The Biden Education Department's Office for Civil Rights proposes a new rule on athletic eligibility favoring sexual confusion over female athletes....

May 23, 2023


Academic Freedom Isn’t Free

If higher education cannot hold itself to its founding principles, then we must....

Most Read

April 7, 2023


Congress Asks Dept of Education to Enforce Foreign Gift Disclosure Laws

The National Association of Scholars strongly endorses the Representatives' work to open the books on higher education's concealed dealings with the foreign despots who see......

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

April 14, 2023


Faculty Fight for Academic Freedom at Harvard

While many faculty quietly endorse views they privately disagree with, Harvard faculty band together to resist administrative overreach, overzealous students, and protect academic freedom....