Academic Freedom Trouble at the University of Michigan

Keith E. Whittington
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: Music professor Bright Sheng showed his class at the University of Michigan the 1965 film of William Shakespeare's Othello in which Laurence Olivier plays the Moor in dark make-up. Students objected. A colleague denounced showing the film as a "racist act." A dean declared that showing the film was contrary to the school's anti-racist commitments. Sheng was removed from the classroom until he "agreed" to step away from the class entirely. Meanwhile, he remains under threat of investigation and discipline for his offenses.

The Academic Freedom Alliance has released a public letter calling on the University of Michigan to immediately allow Professor Sheng to fully return to his teaching duties, to drop all investigations of him and threats to him arising from this incident, and to reaffirm that faculty at the university have the freedom to assign pedagogically relevant materials in their classes even when those materials are controversial or might cause offense.