Tuesday 3 December 2019

Chicago and Academic Freedom

Vic Uni Associate Dean Michael Johnston, and colleagues, want New Zealand's universities to adopt the Chicago Statement on academic freedom and free speech. 

I cover the case for it over at Newsroom today ($). A snippet:
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Academia chronicles violations of academic freedom and student speech rights in America, regularly tallying abuses like Northwestern University’s censorship of a department’s academic journal and its chilling investigations of other scholars; Texas State University’s threats to the funding of a student newspaper over content the administration did not like; and, DePaul University’s requiring a socialist student organisation not only to have security officers monitor their discussion with the author of a book on Karl Marx, but also to cover the security cost.

New Zealand seems far removed from these kinds of problems. But we are hardly immune.

Massey University’s blocking of an invited lecture by Dr Don Brash seemed to be rather more about the Vice Chancellor’s political differences with the former Reserve Bank Governor than about any purported security concerns. But it would be a problem in either case: neither the heckler’s veto, nor the ideologue’s, should have standing.

And when universities are caught between student groups protesting China’s repression of Hong Kong, and students from China potentially pressured by the Chinese Communist Party into launching counterprotests, appropriate responses are more difficult without a strong commitment to academic freedom for both faculty and students.

Universities can come to different decisions about how to handle difficult cases. When universities have a strong commitment to academic freedom and explain their decisions within that framework, differences in views about how any particular case should be treated can be fodder for the usual debates within a university.

But without that commitment, contentious decisions can look a lot more like a weakening of support for academic freedom. And that has implications for academia more broadly.
I expect an ungated version will be up at the Initiative's site tomorrow for those without a subscription.

I hope that Michael's initiative enjoys a lot of support.

Update: Ungated link

No comments:

Post a Comment