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How True!

The Times Higher Education Supplement (U.K.) reports, Mar. 17, 2006:

Academic freedom is under threat in even the most modern democratic nations, John Sexton, president of New York University, warned this week.

He told a joint meeting of the New York-based Scholars at Risk and the UK's Council for Assisting Refugee Academics that for too many scholars the problem of freedom, or the lack of it, was painfully concrete....

"Forces outside our gates increasingly threaten the sanctuary of our campuses.

"The very diversity of the global village that enriches us simultaneously activates those, including some holding great power, who would limit the scope of our conversations and silence the diversity of voices....

"[E]very university president at some point faces external pressure because a speaker deemed 'controversial' is coming to campus ....

"Those who care about vibrant debate within the university must resist such doctrinaire approaches -- what a colleague has called 'a culture of constraint' -- whether from the Left or Right."

Yes, indeed. And, only two short weeks later ....

Jed Adam Gross:
I just read Dean Sexton's statement on the NYU website. A recurring theme in his descriptions of the university as sanctuary is a fairly sharp distinction between people within the "sanctuary" and outsiders. ("Forces outside our gates threaten the sanctity of the dialogue on campus.") While this vision of the academy in society surely has some merits, it's worth noting that, in practice, a substantial number of activities and organizations seem to span the gates of the campus.

First, many organizations such as the College Democrats of America, the College Republican National Committee, Hillel, the Cardinal Newman Society, and the American Civil Liberties Union have university-based chapters. Although the exact nature of the relationship between the organizations and the universities may vary, at least some of these chapters maintain websites on university servers. Does the "sanctuary" metaphor do anything to clarify these arrangements? Second, some organizations that, from a cultural perspective, seem fairly closely connected to single educational institutions may nonetheless seek to guard their legal and economic independence. Is the Yale Law Journal partly inside the "sanctuary" and partly outside of it? What about the Yale Daily News? What about Yale Insider, a news/analysis website maintained by "unions of Yale employees?" Finally, a university student or employee may enter into a relationship with an entity such as a national newspaper or a civil rights legal fund with the aim of exposing alleged failings within the university's gates.

What insight does the insider/outside distinction shed on actual freedom of expression issues affecting universities?
4.3.2006 11:04pm
Jed Adam Gross:
To ensure that I've clearly and accurately conveyed this aspect of Dean Sexton's observations, I should perhaps note that the language largely focuses on forces (e.g. "outside pressure," "internal threats," "[f]orces outside"), rather than on individuals or institutions.
4.3.2006 11:21pm
Hans Bader (mail):
This just confirms that John Sexton is a sanctimonious hypocrite who doesn't practice what he preaches.
4.4.2006 1:51pm
Houston Lawyer:
"who would limit the scope of our conversations and silence the diversity of voices...."

In this country, few places today are as hostile to a diversity of viewpoints as the elite universities. What better way to stifle those who disagree with you than to exclude them from those being hired.
4.4.2006 4:18pm