The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Faculty surrenders academic freedom without firing a shot


I have an essay for the Pope Center today discussing my five year odyssey of trying to get George Mason's speech code repealed. But it is also about the amazing fact that university faculty have simply surrendered one of their core academic functions-academic freedom-to the minions in University Life offices without a peep. And, I suspect, most faculty don't even realize that they've been rolled. As the Harvard Law faculty recently discovered, other important areas of university governance have also been taken over by academic bureaucrats and the faculty have little say about it.

Here's an excerpt, the whole thing is here:

Many observers might conclude that left-wing professors are here again imposing on students a stultifying political correctness, antithetical to the mission of a university, but that isn't what's happening. At GMU and many others universities, faculty members aren't asked whether or how students' speech should be regulated.

There is a separate office for that, called "University Life," staffed with specialists who do not have academic appointments. It writes the rules, enforces them, and adjudicates violations of the rules of student conduct, including speech. Though it establishes some of the most important academic policies of the university, it effectively operates autonomously, resistant to inputs from the academic side of the house, even from well-intentioned law professors who would like to see their school live up to the highest ideals of the Enlightenment.

I can testify as an expert, having spent the past five years, on and off, trying (and failing) to get our university's speech code fixed.