An exploration of the meaning of academic freedom in American higher education
“If you want to think seriously about academic freedom and you’re looking for a place to begin, this is the book for you.”—Stanley Fish, Texas Law Review
Academic freedom is under increasing fire in the United States. Debate swirls around campus “indoctrination” and critical race theory. Legislative efforts to regulate schools and scholars proliferate, from the Stop WOKE Act in Florida to bans on diversity policies in Texas. Institutions’ donors hold growing influence.
Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post outline the history and meaning of American academic freedom—beginning in 1915, when the idea was articulated by the American Association of University Professors to ensure that faculty could pursue their work according to the standards of the profession. Higher education was viewed as a mission for the common good underpinned by the primary dimensions of academic freedom: research and publication, teaching, intramural speech, and extramural speech.
In revisiting these founding principles, Finkin and Post aim to bring intellectual integrity and coherence to the discussion over academic freedom, and what it means in the twenty-first century.
Matthew W. Finkin is the Maybelle Swanlund Endowed Chair, University of Illinois College of Law. He lives in Champaign, IL. Robert C. Post is Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School. He lives in New Haven, CT.
“[This book] is right on target. And you just have to love a book . . . that declares that while faculty must ‘respect students as persons,’ they are under no obligation to respect the ‘ideas held by students.’ Way to go!”—Stanley Fish, New York Times
“A handy and readable survey of theory and practice, with pointed illustrations of faculty renegades and administrator tyrants, along with the AAUP’s efforts to arbitrate the delicate balance between intellectual innovation and academic duty, adversarial minds and scholarly guidelines.”—Mark Bauerlein, Weekly Standard
“By breaking down academic freedom into the component parts of teaching, research, intramural speech, and extramural speech, the authors show how a vibrant version of academic freedom functions not as an immunity, but rather as a means for faculty to challenge intellectual orthodoxies while also being valued contributors to mainstream life.”—S. B. Lichtman, Choice
“This is a powerful and pragmatic argument about the importance of professional standards to maintain the integrity of knowledge production.”—Journal of Legal Education
“[Finkin and Post] do a good job answering the question: Why does an enterprise dedicated to the production of new knowledge require academic freedom to achieve its disciplinary goals? (Note that this brackets the question of whether those goals should be valued and honored by the rest of the world.) . . . If you want to think seriously about academic freedom and you’re looking for a place to begin, this is the book for you.”—Stanley Fish, Texas Law Review
“It’s the book’s succinct but thorough examination of academic freedom that makes it a must-have for every academic law library.”—Wael B. Hallaq, Law Library Journal
“This book is certainly the best and clearest analysis I have read on the theory and practice of academic freedom. It should be required reading for anyone interested in this important subject.”—Derek Bok, The 300th Anniversary University Professor and president emeritus, Harvard University
“There is no better corrective—or alternative—to the ‘corporate’ University than this courageous book that redefines the spirit of ‘academic freedom’ for our times. In recalling the principles of common law and the public good that underlie the ideals of academic freedom, Post and Finkin have held our scholarly profession to its highest standards, and saved us—as scholars and teachers—from the glib and glittering inducements of the intellectual marketplace.”—Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities Department of English and American Literature and Language Director, Harvard Humanities Center, Harvard University
“At a time when too many of academic freedom’s defenders and critics are unclear about just what academic freedom is—and is not—this historically grounded, lucid formulation of academic freedom’s basic principles is of extraordinary value.”—David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
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