AFA Sends Letter to SUNY Fredonia Regarding Stephen Kershnar
Letter calls on university to issue a statement reaffirming Kershnar’s academic freedom
PRINCETON, NJ – 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.
“Professor Kershnar’s scholarly research and teaching on these topics is fully protected by principles of academic freedom and his public discussion of his ideas is protected by principles of freedom of speech,” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s academic committee, in the letter to SUNY Fredonia president Stephen Kolison, Jr. “There is, quite simply, nothing for the university to review under these circumstances. The university’s obligation in the face of this controversy is to provide a forum in which ideas, however extreme or misguided they may be or seem to be, can be articulated, criticized, and fairly debated. A member of your faculty under such public scrutiny is likely to be targeted for abuse and threats, and the university’s responsibility is to shelter the faculty member from that harassment and not add to it.”
Whittington continued, “The Academic Freedom Alliance supports Professor Kerschnar’s right to hold and state his opinions and calls upon the university to live up to its contractual and constitutional requirements to protect Professor Kershnar’s ability to teach and research without interference. We call on the university to issue a public statement clearly reaffirming Professor Kershnar’s academic freedom.”
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. The Academic Freedom Alliance itself takes no position on the merits of the substantive content of faculty speech or writing.