100th Anniversity in 2015

“Academic freedom” was still a new idea when John Dewey, Arthur O. Lovejoy, and other prominent scholars founded the American Association of University Professors in 1915. Establishing academic freedom as a cornerstone of higher education has been just one of the AAUP’s many achievements in the hundred years since its founding. The standards developed by the AAUP have been adopted by colleges and universities across the country, shaping a higher education system that is renowned for excellence in teaching and research. - aaup.org

"The American Association of University Professors at a Century: Dr. Steven Salaita and the Question of Academic Freedom" Talk

Wednesday April 1, 4:30 p.m. at Weis House Great Room

Reception to follow at Writers House

To mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the AAUP the F&M AAUP, Writers House, and Weis House, will host a talk by Professor Steven Salaita on the subject of the current threats to academic freedom.  As major media outlets reported this past summer, trustees at the University of Illinois rescinded an offer of a tenured professorship to Dr.Salaita, a scholar of Native American and indigenous studies, on the grounds that several of his Twitter messages were uncivil. 

This event is an occasion for the F&M community to discuss the nature of academic freedom, faculty governance, and the best ways to ensure the free exchange of ideas. 

Featured Reading: Versions of Academic Freedom by Stanley Fish

Versions of Academic Freedom



192 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2014

The Rice University Campbell Lectures

Through his columns in the New York Times and his numerous best-selling books, Stanley Fish has established himself as our foremost public analyst of the fraught intersection of academia and politics. Here Fish for the first time turns his full attention to one of the core concepts of the contemporary academy: academic freedom.

Depending on who’s talking, academic freedom is an essential bulwark of democracy, an absurd fig leaf disguising liberal agendas, or, most often, some in-between muddle that both exaggerates its own importance and misunderstands its actual value to scholarship. Fish enters the fray with his typical clear-eyed, no-nonsense analysis. The crucial question, he says, is located in the phrase “academic freedom” itself: Do you emphasize “academic” or “freedom”? The former, he shows, suggests a limited, professional freedom, while the conception of freedom implied by the latter could expand almost infinitely. Guided by that distinction, Fish analyzes various arguments for the value of academic freedom: Is academic freedom a contribution to society's common good? Does it authorize professors to critique the status quo, both inside and outside the university? Does it license and even require the overturning of all received ideas and policies? Is it an engine of revolution? Are academics inherently different from other professionals? Or is academia just a job, and academic freedom merely a tool for doing that job?

No reader of Fish will be surprised by the deftness with which he dismantles weak arguments, corrects misconceptions, and clarifies muddy arguments. And while his conclusion—that academic freedom is simply a tool, an essential one, for doing a job—may surprise, it is unquestionably bracing. Stripping away the mystifications that obscure academic freedom allows its beneficiaries to concentrate on what they should be doing: following their intellectual interests and furthering scholarship.

Freedom from Speech


The past year has been a surreal time for freedom of speech. While the legal protections of the First Amendment remain strong, the larger culture is increasingly obsessed with punishing both public and private individuals for allegedly offensive utterances or (often misunderstood) jokes. Academia—already an institution where free speech is in decline—has grown still more intolerant with high profile “disinvitation” efforts against speakers as well known as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and demands from students for professors to provide “trigger warnings” in class to protect them from even G rated material. Meanwhile the global situation for freedom of speech has grown even worse, with a politician in the UK arrested for quoting Winston Churchill.

In Freedom from Speech, author Greg Lukianoff argues that the threats to free speech go well beyond “political correctness” or “liberal groupthink.” As global populations increasingly expect not just physical comfort in their lives, but intellectual comfort as a kind of right, threats to freedom of speech are only going to become more intense as time goes by. Lukianoff offers potential solutions to ensure freedom of speech survives in the long battle to come.