Saturday, June 22, 2024

Honestly Not Sure How A Turd Like This Calls Itself A Scholar.....,

chronicle  |  It is not surprising for a boss to think that employees should avoid saying things in public that might damage the organization for which they both work. It is not even surprising for the boss to understand “damage” to include making the boss’s own life more difficult.

But college faculty members have fought very hard, for a very long time, to be protected from such attitudes. They have established that, unlike employees at most organizations, they have the right to publicly criticize their employer and their administration. So it is notable when an especially prominent administrator publicly announces that faculty speech rights should be rolled back a century or so. That is what Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of social science and a professor of social sciences at Harvard University, did last week in an opinion essay published in The Harvard Crimson with the ominous title, “Faculty Speech Must Have Limits.”
Members of the faculty, Bobo argued, have the right to debate “key policy matters” in “internal discussion,” but they should be careful that their dissent not reach outside ears:
A faculty member’s right to free speech does not amount to a blank check to engage in behaviors that plainly incite external actors — be it the media, alumni, donors, federal agencies, or the government — to intervene in Harvard’s affairs. Along with freedom of expression and the protection of tenure comes a responsibility to exercise good professional judgment and to refrain from conscious action that would seriously harm the university and its independence.
Such public criticisms, Bobo says, “cross a line into sanctionable violations of professional conduct.” If a group of faculty members, for example, decides that a dean’s policies are inimical to their institution’s core mission, and if they take their criticism to the press, then — according to Bobo — they should be properly disciplined.
Bobo’s views were conventional wisdom among university officials and trustees in 1900. They are shocking in 2024. Shocking, but unfortunately no longer surprising. The Harvard dean’s arguments resonate with a growing movement of those who wish to muzzle the faculty. Professors are to be free to speak, so long as they do not say anything that might disturb the powers that be. Those in power may not want the faculty to march to the same tune, but they do all like giving the faculty their marching orders and expecting them not to step out of line.
The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, issued jointly by the American Association of University Professors and what was then called the Association of American Colleges, established the now widely adopted rules regarding faculty speech. It specifies that when professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” The statement does suggest that professors have some “special obligations” when speaking in public, though the AAUP has long urged that those be treated as suggestive rather than obligatory. Even so, the statement merely urged professors to “be accurate” and “exercise appropriate restraint.” They “should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances,” and thus they should avoid embarrassing themselves in public by being rude or ignorant. But there was no suggestion that they should avoid airing the university’s dirty laundry.
Harvard’s own free-expression policy, first adopted in the Vietnam era, is if anything even more emphatic about the need for officials to tolerate dissent and critique. It notes that “reasoned dissent plays a particularly vital part” in the university’s existence and that all members of the university community have the right to “advocate and publicize opinion by print, sign, and voice.” Dissenters are not to obstruct “the essential processes of the university” or interfere “with the ability of members of the university to perform their normal activities,” but they are free to “press for action” and “constructive change” by organizing, advocating, and persuading. Bobo’s ideas about where the limits of faculty speech are to be found are plainly at odds with both AAUP principles and common university policies, not to mention First Amendment principles that would bind officials at state universities.
The AAUP’s 1915 Declaration of Principles provided the rationale for such protections of faculty dissent. “With respect to certain external conditions of his vocation,” a professor “accepts a responsibility to the authorities of the institution in which he serves,” but “in the essentials of his professional activity his duty is to the wider public to which the institution itself is morally amenable.” The “university is a great and indispensable organ of the higher life of a civilized community,” and the members of the faculty “hold an independent place, with quite equal responsibilities” for caring for and preserving those institutions. For those purposes, the “professorial office” was not that of an employee doing the bidding of a boss but that of a scholar answering to a public trust. The faculty’s ultimate duty is not to the college as such but to the larger public that even private universities, as charitable institutions, serve.

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