The Academic Freedom Podcast

The Academic Freedom Podcast is the official podcast of the Academic Freedom Alliance, featuring conversations with leading scholars on the latest issues impacting academic free speech. It is available on most major podcasting platforms, including AppleSpotifyGoogle, and Audible.

Mitch Daniels on Promoting Campus Free Speech

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Mitch Daniels, the outgoing president of Purdue University and former Republican Governor of Indiana. During his time at Purdue, President Daniels has carved out a national reputation as a leader on campus free speech issues. Daniels shares the principles and practices he has followed to dramatically improve Purdue’s rating as a defender of academic freedom. The university most recently appeared at number three on FIRE’s College Free Speech Rankings.

A Conversation with Professor Eugene Volokh

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Professor Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law, where he teaches on the First Amendment. Volokh is also the founder and coauthor of The Volokh Conspiracy, a leading legal blog. Whittington and Volokh discuss the recent Georgetown Law controversy involving Ilya Shapiro, and whether universities should take public positions on the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion. They also discussed the Kalven Report, a 1967 report from the University of Chicago on the relationship between academic freedom and the political neutrality of academic institutions.

Protecting Controversial Speech On and Off Campus

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Professor David Rabban of the University of Texas Law School, a member of the AFA’s Academic Committee and former general counsel for the American Association of University Professors, about the importance of protecting both intramural and extramural speech. Drawing from recent high profile cases in which professors were sanctioned by their employers over statements made on social media and in podcast interviews, Whittington and Rabban explore how the principles of academic freedom apply to faculty both on and off campus, in their lives as scholars and as citizens. 

The Case for Tenure: A Rebuttal to Proposals in Texas

In this special edition of the Academic Freedom Podcast, Keith Whittington interviews Matthew Finkin of the University of Illinois College of Law about the new proposals from Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to end tenure as we know it at state colleges and universities. In addition to ending tenure for new hires, the proposals would revoke tenure for professors who teach critical race theory and institute annual post-tenure reviews for all. The Academic Freedom Alliance said in a statement that the proposals would “strike at the very heart of the academic enterprise.”
Matthew Finkin is a renowned expert on academic freedom and the author of multiple books, including The Case for Tenure. Listeners can learn more about the importance of tenure in Episode 6 of the Academic Freedom Podcast (published 10/20/21) on Georgia’s Post-Tenure Review Policy, and by reading the AAUP’s 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure.

Reaching Bipartisan Consensus on Campus Free Expression

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Dan Cullen, Professor of Philosophy at Rhodes College. Professor Cullen was a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Academic Freedom Task Force on Campus Free Expression, which recently published its report, Campus Free Expression: A New Roadmap. In this wide ranging discussion, Whittington and Cullen cover key findings of the report, how those findings relate to recent controversies, and the most salient takeaways for universities and policymakers. 

On SUNY Fredonia, Moral Philosophy, and Forbidden Questions

In this special edition of the Academic Freedom Podcast, the AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Jeff McMahan, the Sekyra and White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford, about the current controversy at SUNY Fredonia involving Professor Stephen Kershnar. An applied ethicist and distinguished teaching professor of philosophy, Prof. Kershnar has been placed under administrative review and barred from campus for conducting research and making statements in a YouTube interview about “adult-child sex.” 

The Academic Freedom Alliance sent a letter to SUNY Fredonia in defense of Prof. Kershnar’s academic freedom and partnered with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to draft an open letter from philosophy faculty in support of his right to tackle difficult questions.  

In this conversation, Whittington and McMahan explore not only the controversy itself, but also the larger questions surrounding what moral philosophers do, why they ask such controversial questions, and what value they bring to our understanding of society’s most difficult issues.

The Fight for Academic Freedom at the University of Florida

In October 2021, three University of Florida (UF) professors were told by the University’s Conflict of Interest Office that they would not be allowed to be expert witnesses in a voting-rights lawsuit against the state, sparking an outcry over academic freedom. In this episode of the Academic Freedom Podcast, the AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews two UF professors who were at the center of the faculty Senate’s effort to push back on the decision. Raymond Issa is the chair of the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom, which was set up to review the University’s decision, and Danaya Wright is a member of the committee. They discuss the findings of the report released by the ad hoc committee in December.

What Can We Learn from the Top Ranked College for Academic Freedom?

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Hiram E. Chodosh, president of Claremont McKenna College.  Under President Chodosh’s leadership, Claremont McKenna has been widely recognized for its commitment to academic freedom. It was the recipient of the Institutional Excellence Award from the Heterodox Academy in 2019. For the past two years, it was the top ranked school in the free speech rankings by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). 

President Chodosh previously served as Dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, where he was also the Hugh B. Brown Endowed Presidential Professor of Law and Senior Presidential Adviser on Global Strategy.

How University Administrators Can Foster a Culture of Free Speech

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Howard Gillman, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine. Chancellor Gillman is an award-winning scholar and teacher with an expertise in the American Constitution and the Supreme Court. He holds faculty appointments in the School of Law, the Department of Political Science, the Department of History, and the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and every year teaches an undergraduate seminar. He also provides administrative oversight to, and serves as co-chair of the advisory board of, the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

Understanding Academic Freedom with AAUP‘s Hank Reichman

The AFA’s Keith Whittington interviews Hank Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University-East Bay, former AAUP vice president, and former chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure from 2012 to 2021. Reichman is the author of the recently released book Understanding Academic Freedom from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Georgia‘s Post-Tenure Review Policy: The Death of Tenure?

The AFA’s Keith Whittington is joined by Professor Matthew Boedy, president of the Georgia Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and Tyler Coward, the Senior Legislative Counsel at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Matthew and Tyler join to discuss the new post-tenure review policy from the Georgia Board of Regents, which the AAUP is calling “the death of tenure.” For additional information, please see the AAUP’s letter objecting to the policy, FIRE’s letter to the regents about the policy, and the policy itself

A Discussion with the Authors of FIRE‘s ”Scholars Under Fire” Report

Keith Whittington interviews Sean Stevens and Komi German, research fellows from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Stevens and German were lead researchers and authors of FIRE’s new report and database, “Scholars Under Fire,” which includes a list of professors who have been targeted for their speech and features data that provide a broader perspective on threats to campus speech. View the database and learn more at thefire.org/research.

David French on the Problem with Banning Conversations

David French is a senior editor of The Dispatch and the author of several books, most recently Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. He was senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, and served as president for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) before stepping down to serve in the Iraq War.

David joins the AFA’s Keith Whittington for a wide ranging conversation about his work on campus free speech at FIRE, cancel culture on the right vs. the left, his recent involvement in the critical race theory debate, and the unintended consequences of any effort to ban conversations or ideas.

A Conversation with Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution

Jonathan Rauch is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a contributing editor of The Atlantic, and the author of several books, including The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth. He joins the AFA’s Keith Whittington for a conversation on the past and future of free speech, the erosion of trust in institutions, and how to strengthen academic freedom going forward.

Pragmatism v. Principle in the Liberal Approach to Free Speech

A discussion about modern liberal approaches to free speech on campuses. The conversation is hosted by Amna Khalid, Associate Professor in the Department of History at Carleton College, and features AFA members Randall Kennedy and Jonathan Zimmerman. Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and the author of several books, most recently For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law. Zimmerman is Professor of History of Education and the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the author of several books, including his most recent, Free Speech: And Why You Should Give a Damn.

Meriwether v. Shawnee State: Is All Classroom Speech Free Speech?

A discussion on the landmark ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Meriwether v. The Trustees of Shawnee State University, which is redefining the relationship between classroom teaching, academic freedom, and the First Amendment. Featuring Jonathan Adler, Professor of law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law; Jeannie Suk Gersen, Professor of law at Harvard Law School; and Steve Sanders, Professor of law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University.

Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

Individuals at academic institutions should not fear suppression or retaliation for teaching, writing, or speaking. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.