August Update from the Academic Freedom Alliance
As we enter the Fall semester, the AFA is hard at work defending faculty under fire for protected speech. We are working behind the scenes to support professors and are exploring getting involved in additional cases.
In addition to our legal defense work, here are other updates from August.
Join Us in Signing the Princeton Principles
Earlier this month, the AFA helped call attention to the release of the Princeton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry, released by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and authored by multiple scholars who are also AFA members.
The Princeton Principles affirm the Chicago Principles’ assertions on the importance of free speech while expanding its scope. They argue that universities have a special fiduciary duty to foster freedom of thought for the benefit of the societies that sustain them. Although the principles are known as the Princeton Principles, they are proposed by the signatories in their individual capacities and not by Princeton University or any other academic institution.
We are inviting AFA members to sign the Princeton Principles. If you are interested, please contact AFA Director of Operations Howard Muncy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cornell Sends Recommendations to University
On August 14, the Cornell Free Speech Alliance (CFSA) sent a report featuring 20 policy recommendations to Cornell University leadership intended to restore open inquiry and academic freedom on campus. The recommendations are the culmination of nearly two years of research and dialogue that began in response to an increasingly degraded free speech environment at the University. The Alumni Free Speech Alliance has stated that it plans to use CFSA’s recommendations as a basis for a set of “model policies” for universities.
Research from FIRE has found that Cornell is in the bottom 25% of universities in its commitment to free speech, and Cornell administrators are in the bottom 8% for their support for free speech. You can read an op-ed in the New York Post about CFSA’s efforts to turn the campus culture around.
The Latest in Our Interview Series
We added two new installments of our interview series this month. First, Howard Muncy spoke with Ilana Redstone, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about an idea Redstone calls “The Certainty Trap” as well as her thoughts on polarization and the benefits of viewpoint diversity.
According to Prof. Redstone, “Academic freedom, when internalized, should embody and reflect the practice of naming and questioning our beliefs and values. Higher education should model the idea that no idea, value, belief, or claim gets a free pass. And that includes the ideas, values, beliefs, and claims that are cherished within the institution itself. Put simply, democracy is rooted in the idea that people are, on balance, reasonable… However, it appears that some people either no longer think this is true or we’ve forgotten it.”
Second, Howard spoke to Director Flynn Cratty, a historian of early modern Europe at Harvard University where he is Executive Director of the Council on Academic Freedom, Associate Director of the Human Flourishing Program, and Lecturer on History. Among the topics they discussed was Cratty’s assistance with the development of the newly minted Princeton Principles.
As Dir. Cratty said, “The goal of the group was to produce an update to the Chicago Principles. Don [Downs] wrote an initial draft, the rest of us provided copious comments that were consolidated into the end result. To my mind, the great strength of the Princeton Principles is the way they ground academic freedom in the mission of the university. It is hard to predict how they’ll be used. As a historian I can say that the one iron law of history is that nobody ever sees the future coming. But I think they will provoke debate about the mission of the university and the place of academic freedom in that mission.”
A New Membership Milestone
This month, our membership reached an exciting milestone, surpassing 800 members. We continue to accept new members on a rolling basis. Please send any nominations to AFA Director of Operations Howard Muncy at email@example.com.