AAUP Academic Freedom Blog Henry Reichman

An Interview with Henry Reichman on The Future of Academic Freedom


I interviewed Henry Reichman, chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, about his new ebook, The Future of Academic Freedom (Johns Hopkins University Press). Reichman will talk about his ebook on a panel at the AAUP’s Annual Convention on June 13, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia and different future occasions. You can too learn interviews with him on Democracy Now! and Inside Larger Ed.

John Wilson: I’m just a little disturbed if you reward (albeit with very robust reservations) Stanley Fish and say “he has a point when he argues that ‘free speech is not an academic value.’”(175) Why do we’ve to decide on between free speech and educational freedom when they are such shut cousins? Why can’t we describe universities as having free speech plus educational freedom, the place in certain areas (like hiring, tenure, educating, and research) educational freedom is the prevailing worth, whereas in others (outdoors speakers, media, scholar rights, public expression), free speech is the dominant concept?

Henry Reichman: I hardly assume that a truthful studying of my in depth critiques of Fish (in chapters 2 and 8) would characterize my remedy of him as reward with reservations. Extra accurate, perhaps, can be to say that I’m quite essential, while recognizing some constructive factors. Specifically, I feel his assertion that “free speech is not an academic value” is actually true, within the sense that it doesn’t derive from the tutorial mission. As I put it in citing this statement, that is “a valid point: academic freedom and freedom of speech are founded on differing justifications and should not be confused.” (175) Free speech is, nevertheless, as I argue extensively, a democratic worth that can also be highly important to the university. Hence I don’t actually disagree with your description of the connection between educational freedom and free speech. I merely phrase it somewhat in a different way. For example, in chapter 1 I wrote, “The atmosphere for academic freedom on a given campus is inextricably linked to the broader atmosphere for freedom of expression.” (23) Or, as I wrote in chapter 2, “insofar as university administrations have abandoned the defense of academic freedom—or simply pay lip service to the principle—faculty members who wish to defend their own freedom as scholars will need to join with students in opposing restrictions on their freedom to speak.” (49) And, of course, chapters 7 and eight, on scholar educational freedom and the rights of invited audio system, are virtually totally devoted to elaborating on the interdependence of school educational freedom and broader campus free expression rights.

JW: The AAUP was founded in 1915, when the legal protections without spending a dime speech have been virtually nonexistent, the thought of unionizing school school was typically seen as abhorrent, educational freedom did not shield political speech in the classroom or criticism of the federal government throughout wartime, tenure was extra of a hope than a reality, and lots of other limitations on educational freedom existed. Why ought to we be tethered to archaic notions of educational freedom relatively than looking for to go away behind these previous limitations, because the AAUP did with unionization?

HR: I don’t perceive what archaic notions you’re referring to. Tenure in the present day is as soon as once more, definitely for the majority of those that train in larger schooling, extra a hope than a reality, but simply as the AAUP fought for the principle anyway—and gained actual positive factors, many of that are sadly being eroded—I argue we will and must achieve this again. I no extra see tenure as “archaic” than the AAUP’s founders noticed it as an unattainable pipe dream, which is what many at the time thought. As for unionization, I dedicate a whole chapter (based mostly on a Journal of Academic Freedom article) to how the AAUP over many years moved steadily to embrace the concept. Nevertheless it did so not in lieu of its conventional rules however as a mechanism for better implementing those. Moreover, because the guide suggests in several locations, the AAUP’s interpretation of its 1915 rules has additionally advanced by means of numerous interpretive documents and investigation studies. Maybe the perfect example is the AAUP’s expanded understanding of the school’s right to extramural speech, which I chronicle in chapter 3 of the ebook. Finally, with respect to legal protections at no cost speech these are undoubtedly stronger at present than in 1915, however one shouldn’t ignore the troubling tendency of conservative justices, who now maintain a majority on the Supreme Courtroom, to interpret the First Amendment in ways a lot nearer to the Lochner propertarian view of the early 20th century than to the custom of Justices Douglas, Brennan, and Marshall. Definitely, the judicial understanding of educational freedom, which privileges the institutional autonomy of the college over the professional rights of individual school members, is hardly a reliable defense. As I level out in chapter 2, a research by one scholar of some 339 selections involving school claims of educational freedom introduced on First Amendment grounds, revealed that 73% have been unsuccessful (45). Therefore, I am convinced, despite as we speak’s extra strong understanding of free speech, the AAUP’s longstanding strategy of pushing for the institution of professional norms by way of college policies and, where potential, collective bargaining agreements remains efficient—offering school manage and converse out in help.

JW: One difficulty you increase within the guide is the thought of utilizing union contracts to enforce educational freedom. Although it’s a good suggestion, shouldn’t that all the time be thought-about much less useful than changing campus policies? Coverage change works at all schools (not simply the uncommon ones with AAUP unions), it applies to the whole campus relatively than the unionized group (which typically doesn’t embrace all instructors), and union contracts are compromises. If we will enact insurance policies that shield educational freedom, then the union doesn’t want to give up one thing else or accept compromises in contract provisions. Shouldn’t coverage change moderately than contracts be the main target of the AAUP on educational freedom?

HR: I don’t actually see the contradiction here. Contracts are themselves insurance policies, which have the benefit of being enforceable by regulation. The AAUP has lengthy advocated and nonetheless does—as do I on this ebook—the adoption of policies designed to protect educational freedom and shared governance. Our Beneficial Institutional Laws on Academic Freedom and Tenure present one model. We also urge, the place potential, that these insurance policies be included in union contracts to allow them to be enforced more successfully. To make certain, contracts are the outcome of compromise, however so too are coverage modifications. A school that is unable to win robust protections for tutorial freedom in its union contract is unlikely to have the ability to win administrative approval for institutional policies that achieve this. Moreover, it is inaccurate to say that each one campus policies apply to all teams. Take the University of California, for instance. Many of its insurance policies are fairly wonderful, but apply only to what they name “Senate faculty,” by which is supposed only the tenured and tenure-track school, who comprise less than half of all those that train. Ideally all schools and universities would undertake insurance policies with contractual standing that incorporate AAUP standards for all who train and conduct analysis. That is the aim. Attaining that objective, nevertheless, is sort of another matter and for that unionization is a strong weapon.

JW: One critique I might make of your e-book is that you simply fall into what I think about the “small number” lure: You downplay assaults on campus free speech as “much less severe than [FIRE] claims” by mentioning that there are only a comparatively small quantity of disinvitations and audio system being shouted down. However can’t that argument be turned towards you? In any case, there are only a small number of instances of unethical donor management or AAUP Committee A investigations annually, but certainly that doesn’t mean corporatization isn’t a problem in academia or that educational freedom is safe. Shouldn’t we be dealing with all the issues of academia, even if we reject the exaggerated and one-sided ideological assessments of them, and acknowledge that even relatively uncommon abuses can have horrible effects and must be condemned?

HR: Properly, I do assume that assaults on outdoors speakers are far much less in depth than FIRE claims and, extra necessary, much less of a menace to educational freedom and freedom of expression than other threats that each FIRE and, to a terrific extent, the media underplay. I’m arguing towards the place, articulated for example by Stephen Carter, that these are “everyday events.” They don’t seem to be. But that hardly means I feel they don’t seem to be a menace at all. That’s one purpose why I dedicate 5 pages (175-179) to chronicling (and approving) the AAUP’s longstanding defense of the rights of controversial audio system. In fact we should always handle “all the problems of academia,” though all those issues don’t all the time even contain educational freedom or free expression. My ebook, for instance, says little about scholar debt or sexual harassment, however clearly these are major issues, extra essential for a lot of than challenges to professors’ classroom speech or to outdoors audio system. But that’s not what the guide is about.

Furthermore, all issues, including all educational freedom problems, will not be equivalent in scope or hazard. Nor have all problems acquired equivalent remedy in public discussion. As I wrote in chapter 8, “The point is not to dismiss the significance of those incidents in which speakers have been truly ‘disinvited’ or even silenced, in a few instances violently. The issue, however, is not the legitimacy of the problem but how extensive it is . . . and, in addition, where the problem ranks among the full panoply of threats to free expression and academic freedom on college and university campuses.” (198)

JW: Once we take a look at the longer term of educational freedom, for the first time within the historical past of American larger schooling, there’s a massive push among conservatives to have robust protections at no cost speech on campus. Why shouldn’t we be saying “yes, thank you” to these conservative campaigns, regardless of how hypocritical they’re, and demand that universities undertake good policies that shield educational freedom and free expression? Why is the left now so suspicious of free speech just because their opponents are arguing for it? Why isn’t the AAUP leaping at the alternative to hitch with the conservatives and convince schools to adopt robust protections for freedom on campus?

HR: It’s not simply that this push is hypocritical. In lots of instances it’s itself an attack on free speech. I am totally unconvinced that the majority proposed free speech legislation aims at defending everybody’s free speech. I feel it’s primarily aimed toward policing speech, particularly the speech of students, but in addition of professors within the classroom. I supply considerable evidence for this in my guide. And I feel experience bears me out. To make certain, there are numerous principled libertarian conservatives who really defend both free speech and educational freedom, and I positively cite several of them in my ebook. Most of them, by the best way, are themselves teachers. And the AAUP has and will again in future, I’m positive, defend the rights of conservative professors ought to their opinions and expression endanger their employment status.

However the conservative political movement for campus “free speech” is aimed mainly on the freedom only of sure audio system. When have we seen these conservatives converse out for the speech rights of their opponents? Hardly. Conservatives defend the rights of Koch-funded “free enterprise” centers, but when they do not be a part of in the assault they continue to be silent when “liberal” centers, as at the University of North Carolina, are shut down for political reasons. Too typically many of these politicians and campus/media “watchdogs” who trumpet the rights of the Milos and the Coulters usually are not solely hypocritically silent when leftists are assaulted; they participate in the assault.

So, as an example, as Canadian political scientist Jeffrey Sachs has identified, when a conservative scholar dug up an previous tweet by U.C. Davis professor Joshua Clover that attacked police, Campus Reform, RedState, Every day Wire, Breitbart, and Fox all denounced him; none defended his free speech. Then a Republican state assemblyman launched a petition demanding that Clover be fired, which in lower than every week attracts over 10,000 signatures. As Sachs wrote on Twitter, “A state senator joins in as well, along with the California Republican Party, the local chief of police, and the National Fraternal Order of Police. These demands are echoed by law enforcement organizations, gun rights groups, and conservative figures across the country.” Soon there is a bill in the California Legislature calling for Clover’s firing. However has there been even a touch of outrage from the conservative “free speech” champions? No. As Sachs—who has in past come to the defense of some “free speech warriors” of the Proper—concluded, “A massive, coordinated assault on campus free speech is unfolding as we speak and none of the Free Speech Brigade have seen fit to utter a word. I don’t know what’s worse: that they all know and are staying mum, or that they’re only now learning about it.”