AFA Sends Letter to St. Olaf College in Minnesota
Letter calls out a “grievous assault on the intellectual climate of the college”
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to St. Olaf College regarding its decision to rescind Professor Edmund Santurri’s appointment as Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community more than a year before the appointment was set to expire in August 2023. The apparent precipitating cause of this decision was a controversy on campus surrounding Professor Peter Singer’s public lecture at the Institute in the spring of 2022, which followed similar controversies around other speakers brought to campus by the Institute.
“We are dismayed at the recent decision to rescind Professor Edmund Santurri’s appointment as Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community,” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee, in the letter to St. Olaf College President David Anderson. “It is a grievous assault on the intellectual climate of the college for the director of a scholarly center to be precipitously dismissed from his post because the intellectual activities of the center offend members of the campus community.”
Whittington continued, “This sudden termination sends a clear message to the campus that some exploration of ideas will not be tolerated and that the college’s stated promise that the faculty will have the full freedom to pursue the truth in accord with their scholarly judgment is a hollow one. Professor Santurri has been professionally and materially damaged by this decision, and other members of the faculty have learned that there are intellectual boundaries that they dare not cross. We call upon the St. Olaf College to pay all stipends on top of his base salary as promised in his letter of appointment and to grant his request to be appointed by the chair of the St. Olaf College Board of Regents as a member of the Institute Advisory Board.”
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.