|On September 26, 2022 The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article under the heading of “academic freedom” that details the actions the University of Idaho has taken to silence educators when it comes to the issue of abortion. The article was written by Senior Reporter Nell Gluckman and is entitled; “’It’s Making Us Accomplices’: A University Tells Faculty to ‘Remain Neutral’ on Abortion Discussions in Class.”|
The university references Idaho’s law and asks educators to “remain neutral” when it comes to conversations about abortion. The university also addresses the subject of contraception acknowledging that “the Idaho law was ‘not a model of clarity’ … with regards to contraception.” As a result, the university’s general council’s advice– with respect to contraception–was “to be conservative, …, the university should not provide birth control.”
Several affected faculty members expressed fear that their “viewpoint expression” could result in them committing a felony and see the new guidance as deeply troubling, a “breaching of the divide between religion and state,” and an infringement on academic freedom. Follow this link to read the entire article.
Preserving academic freedom and freedom of speech in our public universities is absolutely essential for a well-functioning democracy and actions like those taken by the University of Idaho raise alarm bells. In an earlier conversation with Carolina professor Dr. William Sturkey, we asked him to describe how freedom of speech differs from academic freedom. As you can read and hear from his description, actions like those taken by the University of Idaho may infringe on both.
|Freedom of speech, most importantly, in our country applies to the freedom of the press [and], freedom of assembly. These laws were enacted to make sure that tyrannical governments couldn’t tamp down [on] the press and political movements….It’s about the state suppressing freedom of speech. It’s about the state banning books. It’s about the state banning concepts or trying to ban ideas by using state power through the legislature. That’s what freedom of speech is really about.Now it can be expanded and there’s, you know, liberal ways that you can sort of play with that…. like I have free speech now because I’m speaking…. There’s a huge spectrum of what that might mean. But it really means when the state steps in to interfere with people’s exchange of ideas.Academic freedom, to me, is the ability to study and discuss what you want…. It’s [the] ability to draw conclusions on… their own merit, you know, using your own independent research, [and] not having, …, an administration or even a state government tell you what to research and ultimately what to find. That’s what freedom of speech and that’s what academic freedom mean…. It’s also crucial to understand, I think, that freedom of speech also allows for people to respond to your speech.…. [T]he term “safe spaces” is often thrown out, but also one of the things with this term “self-censorship” is that it almost seems like you don’t want people to have the freedom to respond to folks who are making points, the people…self-censor because they’re afraid of what other people have to say. And, you know, I think that we should all share our views provided that we’re convicted in those views, but everyone else has a right to respond to you as well.|
|Another Chronicle of Higher Education article written by Jonathan Marks and entitled “Red Scare” explores the origins and stated mission versus actions of youth conservative group Turning Point USA. In the piece Marks explores activism on college campuses, addresses the question of liberal versus conservative representation, and concludes that the activism of groups like Turning Point USA “bears an uncomfortable resemblance to McCarthyism.” Rightwing activists often accuse colleges of trying to “indoctrinate” students to become more liberal. What seems clear from this piece is that the colleges are not the ones doing the indoctrinating. As with similar finger pointing, the accusation of indoctrination appears to be more projection than reality. Follow this link to check out this very interesting piece.|