Academic Freedom, Colleges and Universities, Free Expression, Free Speech, Harvard, Swarthmore, The Left
Sandra Y.L. Korn, no liberal she, (who is already contributing to the Nation, as an undergraduate at Harvard) editorialized recently in the Harvard Crimson against academic freedom.
[T]he liberal obsession with â€œacademic freedomâ€ seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has â€œfull freedomâ€ in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever â€œfreeâ€ from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of â€œacademic freedomâ€?
Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of â€œacademic justice.â€ When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.
The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.
Meanwhile at Swarthmore:
Robert George â€˜77 and Cornel Westâ€™s [appearance] on Monday, hosted by the Institute for the Liberal Arts, culminated a campus-wide discussion on the meaning of discourse at Swarthmore. The Princeton professors, known for their friendship despite of their strongly opposing viewpoints, intended to build community and discuss questions like â€œWhat does it mean to communicate across differences regarding what is â€˜rightâ€™ or â€˜wrong?â€™â€
The event was expected by many to be controversial, with rumors of student-led protest in the form of a boycott of the event or a rally after the collection, but no such protest occurred during the collection. Prior to the event, many students voiced concerns with the Collegeâ€™s choice of speaker in George, who is known for his strong opposition to abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage. Some queer students attended the event wearing shirts that read â€œBeneath Human Dignity,â€ a reference to a George quote in National Review magazine about the New York gay marriage decision in June 2011. Students also created a zine which opposed tolerance of Georgeâ€™s viewpoints, stating that by doing so, we would be â€œcondoning homophobia.â€
After the talk, many students expressed dissatisfaction with the event, saying it did not accomplish any meaningful community-building or address substantive issues.
â€œWhat really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I donâ€™t think we should be tolerating [Georgeâ€™s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society. We should not be conceding to the dominant culture by saying that the so-called â€œprogressive leftâ€ is marginalizing the conservative,â€ Erin Ching â€˜16 said.
Really old people like myself can remember the radical left’s adroit use of the so-called Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the early 1960s. Allowing outside agitators representing the extreme left to recruit, propagandize, and proselytize on campus was, way back then, a vital issue of “free speech.”
Now, fifty years and a Gramscian long march later, the radical left effectively controls all our elite universities and the discussion of whether there is any real value in free speech, academic freedom, or diversity of opinion is now on the table.