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Of Course It's Academic Freedom:

Asaf Romirowsky, "associate fellow at the Middle East Forum and manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia," writes in the Washington Times:

Post-September 11, the most intense debates about "academic freedom" have involved Middle Eastern studies, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The "right" to teach Israel as original sin and the Israel lobby as a Jewish conspiracy controlling America has been challenged, and, unfortunately, has produced even more virulent rhetoric and overt attacks on Jews. Academia has unconsciously exposed Jews and Israelis as the canaries in the coal mine. If universities are indicators of social trends, then anti-Semitism is becoming more acceptable in the guise of anti-Zionism. Only Jews are unworthy of having a sovereign state, thanks to various sins past and present.

Such attitudes are shockingly common on university campuses, and are protected by "academic freedom." Does calling for the destruction of a state and the dispersal of a people qualify the protections designed by Dewey and Lovejoy? Fortunately, most Americans agree neither with the idea that Israel should be abolished nor with the blanket protections that currently constitute "academic freedom." The gap between academia and the public is increasing, in part because on moral issues, like defending democracy against jihadi terror and rigorous free speech, the public realizes that universities are on the wrong side....

Of course arguing that Israel shouldn't exist as a state (a view, I should stress, that I most certainly don't endorse) is within the scope of academic freedom, both the freedom to engage in academic discussion defined narrowly (e.g., in a scholarly publication or in an academic panel) and defined broadly (e.g., in a broader political discussion on campus or off it). Whether Israel should exist as a country -- or whether Palestine, the U.S.S.R., the former Yugoslavia, North Korea, or a unified Iraq should exist as a country -- is an eminently legitimate subject for academic debate.

I agree that the consequences of the elimination of Israel as a country (a war, in my view unjust, aimed at accomplishing this, and at best the need for many Israelis to emigrate) would be very bad. Likewise, the consequences of some proposed wars might be bad; the consequences of mutually assured nuclear destruction might be bad; so would the consequences of abandoning mutually assured nuclear destruction; so would many other things. But that bears on which side of the debate is right, not on whether academics should be free to debate the matter. That we think one position is wrong or even immoral doesn't mean that people shouldn't have the freedom to espouse that position, in the academy or elsewhere. (It may not be proper for academics to teach their personal views as the only moral truth in the classroom, or to shut up contrary views, or to do many other bad things, but that is also true independently of whether their personal views are good or evil.)

Also, what's with this view (which of course I've heard before from others) that critics of Israel -- or even of Israel's existence -- are arguing that "Only Jews are unworthy of having a sovereign state"? There's hardly universal support, on the academic Left or elsewhere, for an independent Quebec, Kurdistan, Basque homeland, Turkish Cyprus, Serbian Kosovo, or whatever else. When an ethnic group is entitled to a sovereign state is a difficult question, on which there's a good deal of disagreement.

It's true that one rarely hears calls for the abolition of a particular ethnic group's state, but surely if the Spanish Basques announced a homeland (as I believe the Turkish Cypriots have) it would be legitimate for the Spaniards to continue arguing that this homeland should be reabsorbed into Spain. Again, I do think that abolishing Israel would be wrong in many ways -- but not because all ethnic groups, including Jews, are worthy of having a sovereign state. And there's certainly no well-established a priori principle that somehow categorically excludes calls for such abolition from academic discourse.

Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
The deal with Israel on campus is that the principled arguments all go one way, and the corresponding sympathies the other.

What's banned is the legitimacy of a study of why this is, call it the Delusion of Academic Competence, or What Are Principles For?
2.16.2007 5:59pm
Steve:
Also, what's with this view (which of course I've heard before from others) that critics of Israel -- or even of Israel's existence -- are arguing that "Only Jews are unworthy of having a sovereign state"?

David Bernstein attributed that precise view - "that Jews, uniquely, may never have a nation-state" - to a subset of what he described as "Jewish Israel-haters," about two weeks ago right here on the VC.

I think actually, it's not that odd at all for members of an ethnic group to have a view on whether their group should or should not have a nation-state, without necessarily having a view on whether any other group should be entitled to the same. As to whether it's a "legitimate subject of academic inquiry" - that is, whether folks outside the ethnicity may properly weigh in on the topic - I guess I'm not sure what the objective criteria would be for assessing whether the Jews, or anybody else, ought to have a nation-state of their own.
2.16.2007 6:02pm
ed o:
perhaps academic freedom isn't all it is cracked up to be, then. frankly, calling for the abolition of a nation-state (where will those zionists go) under the guise of "academic freedom" does make a mockery of that phrase. maybe this mockery in the guise of academic freedom accounts for the nonsense one sees on campuses.
2.16.2007 6:08pm
Elliot Reed:
Incidentally, what does "Israel shouldn't exist as a state" actually mean? Generally these kinds of debates, as Prof. Volokh's examples show, demonstrate a call for independence from some larger state entity. As far as I can tell, nobody is calling for Israel to be absorbed into Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan, or for it to be partitioned between those countries. So what are academics who are calling for the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state calling for? The replacement of the Israeli state with anarcho-capitalism?
2.16.2007 6:11pm
Anderson (mail):
Nationalism is ugly enough as a secular religion ....
2.16.2007 6:13pm
a-s:
Re "only Jews": Because there is no bright line between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, it is widely accepted to use various indicia of antisemitism, of which singling out Jews/Jewish institutions/the Jewish state is a prime factor.
2.16.2007 6:14pm
Steve:
Yeah, uh, a little too "widely accepted," when even Jews themselves lose the ability to comment on Jewish issues without being regarded as anti-semitic if they go the wrong way.
2.16.2007 6:59pm
Enoch:
As far as I can tell, nobody is calling for Israel to be absorbed into Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan, or for it to be partitioned between those countries. So what are academics who are calling for the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state calling for?

Most likely they advocate the elimination of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian state.
2.16.2007 7:09pm
Hattio (mail):
Just an aside, even if people think the current Israeli state shouldn't exist, that doesn't mean they necessarily believe there shouldn't be a pre-dominately Jewish state, just not necessarily where it is currently. My understanding is that the current placement was only one of several discussed in the international community at the time.

BTW, no I don't think Israel shouldn't exist, or that it only should exist elsewhere. Just pointing out that nuance in others position is really hard to distinguish if you label everyone on the other side an anti-Semite.
2.16.2007 7:22pm
Erisian23 (mail):
I wonder if Israel wouldn't have been better off if the UN Partition Plan never existed and they'd skipped directly to the War of Independence. Then the emergence of the Jewish nation would have been indistinguishable from the beginnings of a number of other states. I'm not suggesting this would mitigate any of the very real problems Israel faces today in regards its neighbors, but it would at least eliminate the unfortunate notion of Israel as an unfair or immoral UN creation. One of the lessons I've taken away from all of this is that it's better (in a pragmatic sense) to wage a war to establish your new nation and then seek UN approval than vice versa. I'm willing to be wrong about this but it'd be nice to have it explained to me why I'm wrong.
2.16.2007 7:33pm
neurodoc:
EV, you surprise and disappoint me here. Though you provide a link to Romirowsky's essay, by skipping past his opening 8 paragraphs, you ignore the essence of his case.

Romirowsky noted that when John Dewey and others came together almost 100 years ago to found the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), their goal was "to preserve the integrity of the academy from a politicized donor-driven agenda." And addressing themselves to "academic freedom," they held, "the freedom of the academic teacher entail certain correlative obligations... The university teacher... should, if he is fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators... and he should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves." (italics mine) Do you take exception to that statement of principles save perhaps for the assumption that professors will all be males?

In the part you omitted, Romirowsky maintains, "However, despite the above, free speech is not used almost interchangeably with academic freedom. Academic freedom is being used a 'get-out-of-jail-free card' when a speaker, usually a self-described 'scholar-activist', intends to thwart oversight and accountability. (italics mine)

And he writes, "In the United States, whatever goes on in a classroom is deemed protected by 'academic freedom,' whether it is academic or not. Only sexual harassment appears exempt from this blanket protection. Gradually, the entire campus has become an 'academic freedom' zone, where protests and other activities now qualify as academic 'speech.' The freedom to critique is, predictably, directed mostly at the twin Satans, Israel and America, although efforts to curtail speech that academics find unpleasant and unacceptable have been long standing in the form of 'speech codes' and restrictions on 'hate speech.' Clearly academic freedom is a one-way street; only those having the correct opinions may claim it."

And Romirowsky goes on to offer a few examples in support of his case, to which I think a great many more could be added.

EV, why don't you engage with the whole of Romirowsky's essay rather than just the truncated portion you chose, which does not do justice to the case he set out. (If you were responding in a court filing, I think you might be admonished for this sort of representation of the other side's arguments.)

Haven't you yourself questioned the use of "speech codes"? You don't think there is an identity between First Amendment guarantees of "free speech," which have no particularity to "scholarly pursuits," and "academic freedom," which is very much about "scholarly pursuits," do you? "Scholar-activist" is not a problematic notion, one that may be in conflict with, if not frankly inimical to, the rationale for "academic freedom"?

Does "academic freedom" mean that academics should be free to use their positions to rally support for boycotts of other academics; deny other academics positions and the opportunity to publish their scholarship because of ideologic/political differences; take over university departments to promote their ideologic/ political "vision;" etc?

You really should answer Romirowsky's arguments, that is if you can.
2.16.2007 8:07pm
neurodoc:
Elliot Reed:
2.16.2007 8:09pm
neurodoc:
Elliot Reed: As far as I can tell, nobody is calling for Israel to be absorbed into Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan, or for it to be partitioned between those countries. So what are academics who are calling for the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state calling for?

Noam Chomsky, the late and unlamented (by me) Edward Said, Tony Judt and others of their ilk usually do not call outright "for the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state," though they are generally not heard to denounce Hamas, Hezbollah, and others who make unequivocally clear that is their goal. Instead, these academics urge a "right of return" to Israel for all of the Palestinian "diaspora," a "binational state," a return to the 1948 cease-fire borders, or some combination of such changes that would certainly result in "the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state."
2.16.2007 8:19pm
Roy Haddad (mail):
Really, Israel was put in a colossally stupid place, so the notion that perhaps it shouldn't be there is not to my mind unthinkable.

Though I don't see why they shouldn't be able to remain if everyone would just chill.
2.16.2007 8:39pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
It seems to me that the question of "abolition" of Israel assumes that Israel's founding as an ethnic state has been accomplished - that Israel's War of Independence is finished and they won, so the issue is a "dead ball."

If the Government of Israel were willing to live within its pre-67 boundaries, that might be a legitimate claim, since that terriroty has been under their continuous control for about 60 years. But, that isn't the case. "What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable" is not a principled stance.

I can't say that the pre-67 boundaries are a solution either. I suspect it is impossible to establish a legitimate ethnic state by conquest in the modern era. Zionism was just 100 years behind the times.
2.16.2007 9:09pm
Marc in Eugene (mail) (www):
The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is still there, somewhere in Asia: hic cf.; out of sight, out of mind--that would solve 'the problem' so far as 'the media' are concerned.
2.16.2007 9:57pm
Richard A. (mail):
Ah, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast! That brings fond memories of Pete Seeger's famour ode to Stalin's effort to relocate the Jews, "Hey Zhankoye." Hard to resist stamping your feet as Pete plays that banjo and sings:


When you go from Sevastopol,
on the way to Simferopol
Just you go a little further down
There's a little railroad depot known quite well
By all the people
Called Zhankoye, Dzhan, Dzhan, Dzahn.
Now if you look for paradise
You'll see it there before your eyes
Stop your search and go no further on
There we have a collective farm
All run by husky Jewish arms
At Zhankoye, dzhan, dzhan, dzhan
2.16.2007 11:37pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
David Bernstein just got, well, pwn3d. I'd like to see his response . . . just joking, he will ignore it, of course.
2.16.2007 11:51pm
cvt:
Noam Chomsky, the late and unlamented (by me) Edward Said, Tony Judt and others of their ilk usually do not call outright "for the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state," though they are generally not heard to denounce Hamas, Hezbollah, and others who make unequivocally clear that is their goal. Instead, these academics urge a "right of return" to Israel for all of the Palestinian "diaspora," a "binational state," a return to the 1948 cease-fire borders, or some combination of such changes that would certainly result in "the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state."

Noam Chomsky favors a two-state solution because he sees it as the only practical solution. It is clear that he is not calling for a binational state for all of Israel and the occupied terriotories. Tony Judt, on the other hand, wrote an essay suggesting that it is too late for the two-state solution because of the extensive settlements in the west bank. He argued that although it would be difficult to establish a binational state in Palestine, it should be considered because the alternatives were worse. He did not, however, call for the "destruction of Israel." He's been mischaracterized by David Bernstein as a leftist extremist, but as I've pointed out before, he's a liberal. You can call Chomsky a leftist extremist if you want, but not Judt. He does not advocate revolutionary change in Israel (or anywhere else), including the establishment of a binational state through war, or forcing Israeli Jews to emigrate.

What apologists for Israel often do is to assume, unfairly, that anyone who questions the wisdom of a Jewish state in Israel necessarily also calls for the violent destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews.
2.17.2007 12:46am
Elliot123 (mail):
States are based on power. If a group has the power to take land and hold it, they can build a state. If they lose that power, whether it is their own power or power borrowed from someone more powerful, they lose that state. It's that simple, and has been for all of history. The Jews have the power; the Palestinians don't have it and are trying to get it.

As long as the Jews in Israel have the power, they will have a state. When the Rosicrutians, Wiccans, or 7thDay Adventists have sufficient power and motivation, then they too can have a state.

There's nothing at all wrong with anyone discussing such things in academia, the corner bar, or at the barber shop. If you don't like what people are saying then refute them. That's simple, too.
2.17.2007 1:40am
Incredulous:
How many attempts at genocide, precisely how many holocausts, must an ethnic group endure, before denying their right to live in their homeland as a sovereign state, as other groups do, must occur before denying their right shows a lack of good faith?

Precisely, how many? Is there no limit?
2.17.2007 7:15am
Bill Woolsey (mail):
>How many attempts at genocide, precisely how many >holocausts, must an ethnic group endure, before denying >their right to live in their homeland as a sovereign >state, as other groups do, must occur before denying >their right shows a lack of good faith?

>Precisely, how many? Is there no limit?

No limit.

The right to form a sovereign state is not related to the number of times people of similar ethnicity of those supporting the formation of such a state have been persecuted.

The policies regarding the dissenters (if any) being roped into the new state are very relevant.
2.17.2007 8:55am
neurodoc:
cvt,

Chomsky has been all over with his "solutions," his only constancy being unremitting hostility to Israel as a nation state. From '67 to the mid-70's, it was bi-nationalism for him (Peace in the Middle East? Reflections on Justice and Nationhood, 1974). More recently, he has offered various alternatives to the state of Israel: How should we rank these objectives in order of preference? My own judgment, since childhood and still today, is that among these alternatives, the no-state solution is by far the best (not just in this region), a binational state second, and a two-state solution worst.

Chomsky's most recently stated vision for the Middle East is ...a no-state settlement, generalizing multinationalism (in the broad sense indicated) beyond the borders of a state. That approach would be based on the recognition that the nation-state system has been one of the must brutal and destructive creations of Europe and its offshoots, imposed by force on much of the rest of the world, with horrendous consequences for centuries in Europe, and elsewhere until the present. For the region , it would mean reinstating some of the more sensible elements of the Ottoman system (though, obviously, without its intolerable features)...
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=6110

Of Judt you say, "He does not advocate revolutionary change in Israel (or anywhere else), including the establishment of a binational state through war, or forcing Israeli Jews to emigrate." Can you tell us how would such a binational state might come into being without "revolutionary change in Israel" and/or "through war," and the likelihood that those Jews who survived the transformation to a binational state by whatever means it was achieved would not be forced to emigrate? Do you or Judt have some example of pluralism in the Middle East, other than what there is of it in Israel, to warrant any hope of a salubrious result were a binational state come about somehow? (Israel: The Alternative, NYRB 2003).

You didn't say anything about Said, the departed liar, so I won't either, other than to repeat what I said earlier in reply to Elliot Reed, that these people have all campaigned for "some combination of such changes that would certainly result in 'the destruction of Israel or the end of Israel as a state.'" (He had asked, "Incidentally, what does 'Israel shouldn't exist as a state' actually mean?")
2.17.2007 10:23am
neurodoc:
EV, this thread quickly jumped the track, going OT with discussion of the case for/against Israel rather than about the merits/demerits of what Romirowsky had to say. Why don't you get it back on course you started this off on by engaging with Romirowsky on what "academic freedom" should mean and what protections it should afford "scholar activists" without respect to the particular ideologic/political causes for which they would use their academic positions in the service of advocacy on and off campus.
2.17.2007 10:31am
Ken Arromdee:
this thread quickly jumped the track, going OT with discussion of the case for/against Israel rather than about the merits/demerits of what Romirowsky had to say.

That's because, at least under some definitions of "academic freedom", whether an idea deserves academic freedom is not completely separate from how good the case is for/against it; academic freedom loosens the need to make a good case, but doesn't eliminate it entirely.
2.17.2007 10:57am
cvt:
Can you tell us how would such a binational state might come into being without "revolutionary change in Israel" and/or "through war," and the likelihood that those Jews who survived the transformation to a binational state by whatever means it was achieved would not be forced to emigrate?

Are you questioning the wisdom or the motives of people who believe that is possible? Either way, you don't have the right to regulate academic discussion based on your idea of "accountability."
2.17.2007 11:55am
neurodoc:
Ken Arromdee, do you believe that "whether an idea deserves 'academic freedom' is not completely separate from how good the case is for/against it" and "academic freedom loosens the need to make a good case, but doesn't eliminate it entirely." Or are you simply saying that there are others who think that is what "academic freedom" should mean? I very much disagree with such a notion and think it not faithful to the what those who originally championed the concept had in mind. But I would very much like to hear what others have to say about the limits of "academic freedom," if indeed there are any, including what the OP, EV, thinks.
2.17.2007 12:02pm
neurodoc:
cvt, "Are you questioning the wisdom or the motives of people who believe that is possible? Either way, you don't have the right to regulate academic discussion based on your idea of 'accountability.'"
I can't say with any confidence what their motives are, nor can you. But surely I can question the "wisdom" of those who call for a binational state or no state at all, and you are free to argue the "wisdom" of such, if you think there is "wisdom" to it.

As for "academic discussion," I don't propose any regulation of it. But I understand "academic discussion" to be about scholarly endeavors, not activism from an academic perch. I don't believe in a notion of "academic freedom" that embraces all that an academician might say or do, including using the classroom as a "bully pulpit," trying to deny others academic opportunities for ideologic reasons, urging boycotts of other academics, etc.
2.17.2007 1:19pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I suppose if we don't let the academics decide what to talk about, then somebody else will decide. Exactly who would that be?
2.17.2007 1:58pm
The River Temoc (mail):
States are based on power. If a group has the power to take land and hold it, they can build a state.

Then why all the diplomatic niceties about how the Arab world should recognize Israel's "right to exist"?
2.17.2007 2:04pm
MDJD2B (mail):
What apologists for Israel often do is to assume, unfairly, that anyone who questions the wisdom of a Jewish state in Israel necessarily also calls for the violent destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews.

No— some who question the wisdom of a Jewish state simply don't care what happens to the Jewish inhabitants of Israel. Others would like to see them treated well, and are prepared to politely disapprove of any violent behavior toward them.
2.17.2007 2:20pm
Ken Arromdee:
do you believe that "whether an idea deserves 'academic freedom' is not completely separate from how good the case is for/against it" and "academic freedom loosens the need to make a good case, but doesn't eliminate it entirely."

Yes, and so does everyone else.

Imagine a college professor lecturing that the other college professors in the department should be shot. Even if this isn't done under circumstances which immediately endanger the other professors' lives, I think few of us would consider that opinion subject to academic freedom in any meaningful way. Likewise, a professor advocating antebellum-style slavery of blacks would not really fall under academic freedom.
2.17.2007 3:03pm
Bottomfish (mail):
The question of whether a people should or not be a state does not seem to me subject to logical analysis. If a people wants strongly enough to become a state and fights hard enough, their state will come into being. It's a question of will. Once the state has been established, it becomes legitimate because a lot of blood has already been shed and the consequences of denying it would be just too bloody.
2.17.2007 4:12pm
Richard A. (mail):
"The gap between academia and the public is increasing, in part because on moral issues, like defending democracy against jihadi terror and rigorous free speech, the public realizes that universities are on the wrong side...."


So writes the professor. Is he really saying that the public realizes democracy needs to be defended against "rigorous free speech?"
2.17.2007 7:54pm
neurodoc:
Ken Arromdee, "Yes, and so does everyone else.

Imagine a college professor lecturing that the other college professors in the department should be shot. Even if this isn't done under circumstances which immediately endanger the other professors' lives, I think few of us would consider that opinion subject to academic freedom in any meaningful way. Likewise, a professor advocating antebellum-style slavery of blacks would not really fall under academic freedom."


Nonsense. It is irrevelevant to ask "how good the case is for/against" murdering other professors in the department, which would be a crime. (BTW, isn't it great that Sami Al-Arian, formerly at tenured professor, is now in prison for encouraging murder.)

"Academic freedom" does not pertain to everything academicians and students may chose to do on or off campus. "Academic freedom" is about affording certain protections for those engaged in "scholarship," that is teaching and/or learning and/or advancing knowledge, not about "advocacy" of anything. Whether what the claimant to "academic freedom" has to say/write/teach is "good" or "bad" has little or no bearing on whether "academic freedom" pertains. Indeed, to put much emphasis on any assessment of "how good is the case for/against" what it is they are saying/writing/ teaching may be inconsistent with the very notion of "academic freedom," except as the unsupported and unsupportable, the bogus, the purloined or plagiarized, the preposterous, and the like won't qualify as "scholarship," and hence is not entitled to the protections of "academic freedom." (The First Amendment grants a Ward Churchill the right to say/write/teach whatever nonsense he wants, but "academic freedom" does not take that Constitutional right further to mean that such a Churchill can't be tossed out on the street by his university.)
2.17.2007 10:02pm
neurodoc:
Richard A., if you read the first 8 paragraphs of Romirowsky's essay that EV did not quote, I think you will see that Romirowsky was not saying "the public realizes democracy needs to be defended against 'rigorous free speech,'" but rather the opposite. (Romirowsky: "...efforts to curtail speech that academics find unpleasant and unacceptable have been long standing in the form of 'speech codes' and restrictions on 'hate speech.' Clearly academic freedom is a one-way street; only those having the correct opinions may claim it.") As with the "implied parentheses" in that brief EV cited on 2/14, Romirowsky could have done a better job with his punctuation.
2.17.2007 10:18pm
Ken Arromdee:
Indeed, to put much emphasis on any assessment of "how good is the case for/against" what it is they are saying/writing/ teaching may be inconsistent with the very notion of "academic freedom," except as the unsupported and unsupportable, the bogus, the purloined or plagiarized, the preposterous, and the like won't qualify as "scholarship," and hence is not entitled to the protections of "academic freedom."

You're disagreeing with me, yet your explanation seems to agree with me. How exactly is "there's no good case to be made for it" *different* from being unsupportable, or bogus, or preposterous, or not-scholarship? They seem to be alternative ways to describe basically the same thing.
2.17.2007 11:01pm
neurodoc:
Ken Arromdee, one last try...

English prof at an expensive artsy/fartsy NE college doesn't realize that things have changed over the years. Believing that sex with students is still an unstated job perk, he sleeps with a student taking his poetry seminar. The school learns of it and wants to fire him. He maintains the relationship was not an exploitative one, he was "mentoring" the student, furthering her learning experience. And he says what he thinks must be magic words - "academic freedom!" No need to ask "how good the case for/against" faculty sleeping with their students. While the prof might qualify as a "scholar" based on his academic efforts, sleeping with students is not a "scholarly" activity. Hence, no "academic freedom" issue(s) to weigh.

An ethnic studies professor at Rocky Mountain U comes to national attention because of abhorrent things he has written about 9/11 victims. Turns out the fellow is bogus to the core - plagiarist, liar, not the Native American he represented himself to be when hired under otherwise suspect circumstances, etc. The football team has caused enough scandal and the school undertakes to fire the prof, but he loudly cries "academic freedom." At first glance, the professor's writings, have the traipings of "scholarship," e.g., cites to primary sources, bibliographies, footnotes, etc. "Academic freedom" should protect him against firing based on the offensiveness of his utterances. But on examination of his collected ouevre, it is discovered that his "scholarship" is bogus to the core. So, it is not because he made a "bad" case for what he wrote that he is not entitled to "academic freedom" protection of his job, it is because "bogus" and "scholarship" are incompatible, so "academic freedom" is not a consideration.
2.18.2007 12:11am
Richard A. (mail):
It was his syntax rather than his punctuation that got away from him. He apparently meant to say "like rigorous free speech and defending democracy against jihadi terror."

But confused writers are usually confused thinkers, and that seems to be the case here. He also fails to realize that democracy often furthers jihadi terror, as the election victories of Hamas et al. show all too unfortunately.
2.18.2007 12:20am
Ken Arromdee:
So, it is not because he made a "bad" case for what he wrote that he is not entitled to "academic freedom" protection of his job, it is because "bogus" and "scholarship" are incompatible, so "academic freedom" is not a consideration.

While this is logically consistent, it doesn't sound like what you were saying before. I would understand "unsupportable" and "preposterous" to mean claims for which no good case could be made, not just lies or non-speech activities.

Anyway, my original point is that whether the merits of the case are relevant depend upon what academic freedom means. You obviously have a definition of academic freedom for which it is not relevant. I don't think everyone else does.
2.18.2007 10:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Given the subject, I'd like to ask what the effects of speech refuting such talk would be. How free, in the real world, is a pro-Israeli activist on some campuses? What risk to grades is there in a classroom for a student taking a pro-Israeli position?
Given previous notice of an effort to use violence to disrupt a pro-Israel speaker, what does a university administration do?
2.18.2007 3:58pm
Anderson (mail):
He's been mischaracterized by David Bernstein as a leftist extremist, but as I've pointed out before, he's a liberal. You can call Chomsky a leftist extremist if you want, but not Judt.

Right. No one could read Judt's Postwar and think he was a "leftist extremist" -- see esp. his withering chapter on the 1960s radicals.
2.19.2007 10:19am
neurodoc:
Does "liberal" count as "leftist," or does one have to be still farther from the center to qualify as such. Is "leftist extremist" farther from the center than mere "leftist"? And is it at all consequential here whether Judt should be seen as a "liberal," a "leftist," or any other political/ideologic designation?

How about the question of "academic freedom," what exactly it is or ought to be, including whether it extends to encompass all "advocacy" activities which an academic may engage in?
2.19.2007 1:24pm
Tom Still (mail):
This very important debate has overlooked the two tyrannies of the academy: tenure and grades. Success of untenured faculty and students depends on these groups' conformity to the views of those who grant tenure and those who pass out grades. Academic freedom is being repressed by senior academics applying power, not ideas. This tyranny is most prevalent in the social sciences within which objective truth is hard to find. Maybe not so coincidentally these disciplines are now controlled by the aging leftists of the Vietnam anti-war, anti-America movements.
2.19.2007 2:06pm
neurodoc:
Tom Still, I don't know that "tenure and grades" are "tyrannies of the academy," but they certainly can be used as instruments of tyranny within the walls of the academy and with effects that reach beyond the academy. And while the "social sciences," whatever they encompass, may be the most problematic disciplines, I trust you wouldn't say that many international relations and area studies programs, as well as Literature and Language ones, are not ideologically coercive.

"(C)ontrolled by the ageing leftists of the Vietnam anti-war, anti-America movements" reminds me of Bernadette Dorn's (sp?) husband, whose book celebrating his own 60's radical exploits and those of the Weatherman was coming out in early September of 2001. With a boost from The New York Times magazine on Sunday, he could hope for a bestseller, but then a couple of days later came 9/11 and his sort didn't appeal much to the general public at that point. He still has his position as a professor of eduction at the University of Illinois to fall back on, though.
2.19.2007 4:43pm
Seamus (mail):

Likewise, a professor advocating antebellum-style slavery of blacks would not really fall under academic freedom.



But I would think that a professor arguing that a significant proportion of the African American population were better off (applying certain measurable standards of "better off") under slavery than today should enjoy the protection of academic freedom--and probably would need them, too.
2.19.2007 5:36pm
neurodoc:
But I would think that a professor arguing that a significant proportion of the African American population were better off (applying certain measurable standards of "better off") under slavery than today should enjoy the protection of academic freedom--and probably would need them, too.

Yes, provided that there were the indicia of "scholarship" to the professor's work, he/she "should enjoy the protection of academic freedom - and probably would need them, too." (Provided the professor was not denied tenure if deserved and was not shunned or otherwise retaliated against professionally by the academic community around them, do you think on most campuses they would be treated as well as would a colleague espousing radical leftist views?) But if the professor went on a speaking tour sponsored by a racist organization of the sort a former Senate Majority leader was once associated with, though the First Amendment might pertain, I do not think that "academic freedom" should protect them.
2.19.2007 6:48pm
Seamus (mail):
neurodoc:

So I guess you'd agree that a professor who went on a speaking tour sponsored by, say, the Communist Party in which he argued that, say, the First Amendment shouldn't apply to religious speech (and perhaps that religious indoctrination of children by parents should be forbidden) should not be able to claim the protections of academic freedom?
2.19.2007 7:10pm
neurodoc:
Seamus, you posited "a professor arguing that a significant proportion of the African American population were better off (applying certain measurable standards of "better off") under slavery than today." I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that the professor was arguing that proposition based on a genuine bit of scholarship ("applying certain measurable standards of 'better off'). If there was no scholarship to support the case, and the professor was hooked up with a racist enterprise like the KKK, then what claim to protections of "academic freedom" other than that he held an academic position and thought it gave him license? If David Irwin held a university position, what would "academic freedom" dictate after he was revealed as not the reliable historian he had once been considered by some, and he became more and more closely identified with Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis?

If that professor on a speaking tour sponsored by the Communist Party was a geologist voicing his outlandish opinions about the First Amendment on his own time and not making use of university connections to promote his ideas, then I think his position in the geology department should be safe. If, however, he were a professor teaching Con Law, then I think his school might reasonably conclude that he was unfit and separate him. A school might do the same were a biology professor to have a religious epiphany and start teaching creationism in his introductory biology classes and going on the road for the Discovery Institute to promote the cause.

No scholarship or not a scholarly activity, no "academic freedom" concerns. Communist Party a red herring, unless the professor has effectively abandoned teaching and scholarly research for indoctrination of students and activism on behalf of Communism, and that would be equally true were the outside group and ideology equally far to the right.
2.19.2007 11:36pm
neurodoc:
BTW, apropos discussions of the First Amendment, see Orin Kerr's 2/19 post about the panel that is to include Phyllis Schafly. I imagine if she were a faculty member at a school like Jerry Falwell's Liberty University she would be secure in her position, but had she somehow managed to be hired by a more "mainstream" institution I'm not sure how long "academic freedom" would protect her against dismissal for "unfitness."
2.19.2007 11:42pm