RE: [asa] Expelled Explained (firing those you don't agree with)

From: Dick Fischer <dickfischer@verizon.net>
Date: Tue Apr 15 2008 - 11:37:05 EDT

Hi David:
 
We can disagree. I won't go to the mat over this issue. You wrote:
"This is why university faculty typically work under contractual
arrangements that guarantee academic freedom and that provide the
further security of tenure upon the attainment of clearly stipulated
goals." A contract can be whatever two parties decide as long as the
stipulations are legal and within their capabilities. If Bob Jones
University or any university decides it wants to push a YEC agenda or
any agenda it may stipulate contractually that the faculty member signs
a statement of faith. That statement of faith can be seen as an
extension or stipulation of the original contract and if the professor
publishes articles counter to the statement of faith he/she can expect
consequences.
 
In short, a contractual agreement that guarantees academic freedom could
also be an agreement that restricts it provided both parties agree.
Each party has to decide what is in its best interests.
 
Dick Fischer. author, lecturer
Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham
www.historicalgenesis.com
 
-----Original Message-----
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On
Behalf Of David Opderbeck
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 6:28 PM
To: Dick Fischer
Cc: ASA
Subject: Re: [asa] Expelled Explained (firing those you don't agree
with)
 
Dick said: You're free to say what you want, they're free to retain
those who tow the line. I don't see any problem with that. Do you?
 
I respond: Yes, Dick, I do see a problem with that. Academic freedom
is fundamental to the purpose of universities in democratic societies.
One of the most important functions univeristies provide in free
societies is a space where scholars are free to speak without having to
"toe the line." This is why university faculty typically work under
contractual arrangements that guarantee academic freedom and that
provide the further security of tenure upon the attainment of clearly
stipulated goals. Academics in places like China and North Vietnam have
to "toe the line."
 
Universities should not be analogized to firms in markets. We're not
about selling consumables, we're about investigating truth. You're
right that many dynamics of higher education in America are conspiring
to pervert that dynamic, but this should be seen as a perversion, not as
the desirable state of things.
 
 
 
On Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 6:15 PM, Dick Fischer <dickfischer@verizon.net>
wrote:
Hi David, you wrote:
 
>>Finally, when it comes to extra-curricular writing and speaking --
work that isn't directly related to my professional obligations --
academic freedom means I ought to be free to think and say whatever I
want, however stupid it might be.<<
 
You're free to say what you want, they're free to retain those who tow
the line. I don't see any problem with that. Do you? A university
depends on its reputation to attract quality, tuition paying students.
If a faculty member by their publications or their public appearances
besmirches or impugns the reputation of that institution said
institution has every right within their contractual obligations and
tenure requirements to retain or terminate that person. A university
must retain a competitive edge in the marketplace for students and
endowments. That's called free market capitalism. That's one of the
hallmarks of our society.
 
When I was in the Air Force and went to Viet Nam there was a physician
who was an Air Force captain and refused to serve in Viet Nam. My
thought at the time was that if you've taken the money in return for
your service you are obliged to perform that service. It wasn't like he
had to join the Air Force. He willingly gave up his rights by taking
the money, then he tried to renege. The same principle applies here.
If a university hires a professor and the professor receives money from
the institution and the institution says you can't go to church on
Sunday, you either refuse the employment or take up golf. There is no
requirement to accept the terms of employment - you can go elsewhere.
 
Dick Fischer. author, lecturer
Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham
www.historicalgenesis.com <http://www.historicalgenesis.com/>
 
-----Original Message-----
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On
Behalf Of David Opderbeck

Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 5:27 PM
To: Dick Fischer
Cc: ASA
Subject: Re: [asa] Expelled Explained (firing those you don't agree
with)
 
Dick, I think your conflating a couple of different issues concerning
academic freedom.
 
You're quite correct that academic freedom doesn't mean a professor is
free to teach just anything. A university can and should have
curricular standards to which teachers must adhere. When I teach Torts
in the first semester of law school, I have to cover the rules of torts.
 
However, academic freedom does mean that I can't critique the existing
rules of torts in class as I teach them, even if the university
administration doesn't agree with my critique. Now, there's a fuzzy
line here -- if my critique is so stupid that it detracts from teaching
the core concepts, I might not be fulfilling my obligation to teach the
basic curriculum.
 
When it comes to publishing and public speaking in fulfillment of my
professional obligations, academic freedom means I have even more
latitude to offer opinions that are contrary to the received consensus.
The administration has essentially no right at all to censor my
professional writing or speaking. That role is supposed to be played by
my peers, through professional societies, peer review, etc.
 
Finally, when it comes to extra-curricular writing and speaking -- work
that isn't directly related to my professional obligations -- academic
freedom means I ought to be free to think and say whatever I want,
however stupid it might be. If I choose to offer an unpopular opinion
on a blog, or email list, or in the trade press, that is my right. Of
course, if I spend all my time on that sort of thing and don't publish
"ordinary" work in peer-approved outlets, the school might dismiss me
for not meeting my professional obligations. (One bit of fuzziness here
-- if I'm speaking on my own behalf and am engaged in something
particularly controversial, I might have a duty to make clear that my
school is not necessarily endorsing my views).
 

-- 
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology 
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Received on Tue Apr 15 11:40:19 2008

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