Excerpt: Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick held a press conference last Friday to respond to the Faculty Council of the University of Texas, which recently passed a resolution reemphasizing the importance of academic freedom at the university and denouncing political interventions in the university curriculum. Patrick declared that he would make it a top priority in the next legislative session to ban the teaching of "critical race theory" at Texas universities, to terminate any faculty member who does so, and to abolish tenure at public universities. This is a disturbing escalation of the Republican war on higher education.
Latest News and Commentary: Princeton
Excerpt: A new episode of The Academic Freedom Podcast from the Academic Freedom Alliance is now available. Subscribe through your favorite platform so you don't miss an episode. In this episode I talk with Dan Cullen, a professor of philosophy at Rhodes College and director of the Project for the Study of Liberal Democracy. He was a member of the Academic Leaders Task Force on Campus Free Expression.
Higher education institutions have long been devoted to truth-seeking, at least in theory. But they have become less and less hospitable to truth-seeking as they have become more and more politically homogeneous, because students are less and less exposed to ideas that challenge their assumptions. Princeton Professor Keith Whittington argues that lack of ideological diversity, particularly in the faculty, undermines the scholarly mission of universities. Additionally, he states that a greater diversity of perspectives would improve research questions and analysis.
Furthermore, I would argue, ideological, or viewpoint diversity, creates a more intellectually stimulating collegiate experience for students that fosters critical thinking and open-minded leadership. But many progressive students are opposed to increasing viewpoint diversity.
Excerpt: Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick held a press conference today to respond to the Faculty Council of the University of Texas, which recently passed a resolution reemphasizing the importance of academic freedom at the university and denouncing political interventions in the university curriculum.
Patrick is all too happy to escalate the fight. "Tenure, it's time that that comes to an end in Texas." Patrick likes to make bold declarations, but he is no backbencher who can be ignored. The lieutenant governor is arguably the most powerful political office in the Texas state government.
Excerpt: The censorious mob strikes again. Recent weeks have seen universities assault the right of scholars to speak freely. Amy Wax, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ilya Shapiro, of Georgetown Law, are the latest victims of a crazed zeal to purge the scholarly community of heterodoxy. We are right to be incensed at the silencing of scholars, provocative though they sometimes are. Yet a hyper-fixation on combating university censorship risks obscuring the bigger picture -- and with it, bigger challenges. We must call on universities to actively promote a culture of free inquiry and protect an educational vision that prioritizes the pursuit of knowledge over partisan activism. Unless we do, the battle for academic freedom is a lost cause.
Excerpt: A new episode of The Academic Freedom Podcast from the Academic Freedom Alliance is now available. Subscribe through your favorite platform so you don't miss an episode.
This is a special episode recorded over the weekend with Oxford University Professor Jeff McMahan. McMahan is a leading philosopher of practical ethics and has written and taught on a wide range of controversial topics. I asked him to give us some context for thinking about the current controversy at SUNY Fredonia.
Excerpt: Recently, a group called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), wrote a letter to President Eisgruber declaring it will campaign against all grants and government contracts to Princeton University until my esteemed colleague, Dr. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a researcher in the University’s Program on Science and Global Security, is dismissed.
UANI’s attack on Dr. Mousavian should be understood for what it is: a hatchet job against a political opponent. Dr. Mousavian has been attacked by Iranian as well as US hardliners. Before he came to Princeton in 2009, for example, he was accused by Iranian intelligence under Iran’s hardline President Ahmadinejad of being a foreign agent and interrogated in the notorious Evin prison.
Excerpt: Princetonians should learn the name Brian Hook. He served as the top U.S. diplomat for Iranian affairs from 2018–2020. Hook also helped negotiate historic peace treaties in the Middle East, collectively known as the Abraham Accords. Hook’s work also bears directly on the Princeton community. In 2019, as State Department officials, we saw Hook lead secret negotiations for the release of Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, held by the Iranian government. Wang had been held hostage in the notorious Evin Prison for three years.
Excerpt: The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia regarding its announcement that the constitutionally protected speech of Professor Stephen Kershnar is “being reviewed.” Professor Kershnar is a distinguished teaching professor of philosophy who does research on applied ethics. He has written scholarship on a wide variety of highly controversial topics, including “adult-child sex.” This includes a scholarly monograph dedicated to that subject published by an academic press. He recently discussed that work in a YouTube video, which led to controversy and Professor Kershnar being placed under review.
Excerpt: It’s an invariable cycle: a professor says something offensive or contentious, and immediately students, their colleagues in academia, the media, and members of the public call for their university to discipline or fire them. In most cases, robust free speech protections have kept anyone from losing their job. But that has been changing in recent years — and two recent scandals involving a controversial University of Pennsylvania professor and a libertarian constitutional law scholar visiting Georgetown University seem poised to put those protections to the test, in cases whose ultimate effects could have far-reaching implications.