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There is no place for hate in today's universities, and any decision like the one made at that university limits the integrity of the American academic system as a whole. Talk back on the boards.

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Muslim students at California college
2.15.02
Politics and Economy:
Academic Freedom After 9/11
More on This Story:
Freedom to Teach?

Ever since the events of 9/11, many have begun to watch what they say — especially on college campuses. Professors who speak their mind are taken to task, sometimes faced with loss of tenure and even threatened with lawsuits for their indiscretion. At last count, there have been over 100 reported incidents at colleges across the country. At Orange Coast Community College near Newport Beach, California, a political science professor, Kenneth Hearlson, challenged his class to talk about the nature of Islam and got suspended.

Kenneth Hearlson
Kenneth Hearlson

KENNETH HEARLSON TO HIS CLASS:

"I do not see the Arab world standing up and saying this is wrong what's happening to Israel. We should not let those people terrorize Israel. We should not let them suicide bomb Israel. We should — I have never seen it. You bring a paper to me, I will believe you. Otherwise, I will not believe you."

"You know exactly what I'm talking about: the six-day war. And what did the Israelis do? They only had 300,000 people. They kicked the Arabs' butts. That's a fact. And what did you do? You came back and attacked, and attacked them again in 1973 on Yom Kippur. One of the holiest days in Israel, the Arab nations attacked them again."

KENNETH HEARLSON ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM:

"This is a classroom. There's nobody getting hurt in that class. This is debate. We can all debate."

"Even many liberal students will say, 'I didn't like that cla-- I didn't like your values, I don't like the way you put things out there," he said, But I learned so much, because you gave us an opportunity to just have free speech. We could speak of anything in this class, and there was no one could jump on us. Because you were always there to say, "Look, they have the right to speak, just like I have the right to speak. '"

Visit our Resources section for more information.

Transcript Read the complete transcript

Professor Hearlson is far from the only faculty member to cause a stir with public speech post-September 11. Take the case of University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, Greek history professor Richard Berthold. According to the ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE (Oct. 25, 2001), early in the morning of September 11, he told students "anyone who can blow up the Pentagon has my vote." He repeated this statement several hours later after American Airlines Flight 777 had hit the Pentagon. In this case, four Republican state representatives and the University Regent demanded his dismissal. They maintain his personal free speech rights do not outweigh his professional responsibility. The question, what, after all, does the Pentagon have to do with Greek history?

The guardian of academic free speech, the American Association of University Professors, has found it necessary to issue a post-September 11 statement, confirming the importance of free expression on college campuses:


Statement by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure on Academic Freedom in the Wake of September 11, 2001

The Association's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, holding its autumn meeting close to two months after the despicable mass murders and destruction inflicted by terrorists on September 11, reviewed the reactions to the tragedy on college and university campuses. Committee A is aware of a few disturbing lapses in which the exercise of academic freedom encountered hostility that threatened to impede the free expression of ideas. Overall, however, the Committee was pleased to observe that the quality of the discussion and debate, the commendable degree of interest, and the civility shown by members of the higher education community in the philosophical and moral issues of concern, have boded well for academic freedom and thus the pursuit of the common good. Still, unsettling events in the aftermath of September 11, in this country and abroad, may well be with us for some time, putting continued respect for academic freedom to a severe test. Committee A, like all of us in higher education, will need to maintain a close watch on the situation. In the words of one university president, "It is incumbent upon universities and their leaders to protect the freedom to assemble and debate, explore questions and test ideas. That can be difficult in a time of stress and pain, but it is never more important."

APPROVED BY COMMITTEE A
NOVEMBER 3, 2001
ENDORSED BY NATIONAL COUNCIL
NOVEMBER 11, 2001


Academic Freedom Resources:

American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
AAUP's purpose is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good. Among the features on this site are an A to Z index of issues in higher education and a reprint of the statement of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure on "Academic Freedom in the wake of September 11, 2001."

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to protecting the unprotected and educating the public about the threats to individual rights on our nation's campuses. On the site is a case archive, as well as articles on FIRE's key issues: free speech, conscience and dignity, legal equality, and due process.

Human Rights Watch: Academic Freedom
This academic freedom program aims to monitor, expose, and mobilize concerted action to challenge threats to academic freedom worldwide, and to foster greater scholarly and media attention to the critical role played by institutions of higher education in the promotion of human rights and the development and preservation of civil society. The site lists cases in which the committee has intervened and includes excerpts from the Academic Freedom entry from the "Human Rights Watch World Report 2001."


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