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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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2.15.02
Politics and Economy:
Academic Freedom After 9/11
More on This Story:
Page 2
History of Academic Freedom

Soon after the American Association of University Professors issued its first statements in 1915 the Supreme Court began to acknowledge, though not codify, the rights of academics to freedom of speech. But eventually the Court did see fit to award the concept protection on Constitutional grounds. A selection of Supreme Court cases bearing on academic freedom follows:


  • "The unwarranted inhibition upon the free spirit of teachers . . . [will] chill that free play of the spirit which all teachers ought especially to cultivate and practice. . . [it may lead to] caution and timidity."(In a case involving state-employed professors to take loyalty oaths.) --Justice Frankfurter concurring opinion in Wieman v. Updegraff, 1952

  • "The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident. No one should underestimate the vital role in a democracy that is played by those who guide and train our youth. To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation. Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die." (In a case involving a professor's right to take the Fifth Amendment when questioned about previous affiliations.) --Justice Frankfurter concurring opinion in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 1957

  • "Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom."--Majority opinion in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 1967

    Sources: STANFORD LAW REVIEW, Collected Supreme Court Rulings, The American Association of University Professors



  • Neither Supreme Court rulings nor official statements by professional groups have had the final word on academic freedom. Some notable academic freedom controversies are listed below. No doubt those following September 11 will be studied and adjudicated in the future.


  • 1917: As the United States enters World War I, Columbia University shuts down its newly completed Deutsches Haus, center for the study of German language and culture. The center is not reopened until 1929.

  • 1947-1954: Although the American Association of University Professors, and even the Supreme Court speak out against the McCarthy era hearings, fully 20% of those called before state and national loyalty committees were academics or graduate students. Most of those who took the Fifth Amendment had their contracts terminated. Many were reinstated in the 1980s.

  • 1963: North Carolina passed a law called the Speaker Ban Law that stated that anyone who had pled the Fifth before HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) was banned from speaking on state-owned property. It was aimed at preventing state universities from having any official or unofficial spokespeople on campus who were Civil Rights proponents, many of whom were previously communists or implicated by HUAC a decade earlier.

  • 1990 - 2000: Many college and universities "hate speech" codes face legal and institutional challenges. In 2000, the chapter of Young Americans for Freedom at Penn State was denied official student organization status because its charter refers to "God-given rights" on the grounds that this constituted religious discrimination. The ruling was later overturned.

    Sources: Ellen Schrecker, NO IVORY TOWER: MCCARTHYISM AND THE UNIVERSITIES, 1986; Columbia University, NATIONAL REVIEW, The American Association of University Professors
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