The Volokh Conspiracy

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Campus Free Speech

Some Academic Freedom Victories

A bit of good news for professorial free speech.


As I noted a couple of months ago, I have the pleasure of leading the Academic Freedom Alliance. The AFA is an ideologically diverse group of over 200 academics dedicated to the defense of professorial free speech and academic freedom at American universities. We provide solidarity and legal resources in cases in which an academic has been threatened with sanctions for their speech that is protected by constitutional, statutory, or contractual rights.

In the past few days, we have achieved victories in two early cases. At the University of Rhode Island, campus administrators have finally admitted that AFA founding member Professor Donna Hughes's personal political writings are protected speech and cannot be the basis for sanctions by her public university employer. At the University of San Diego, the provost has issued a public statement ending the unnecessary investigation of Professor Tom Smith's personal blog post. Neither case should have proceeded as far as it did. We are grateful for the hard work that Samantha Harris, an attorney with years of experience at FIRE, did in both cases to help them reach the appropriate resolution.

Rather than subjecting members of the faculty to drawn-out and costly investigations and threats to their jobs, university leaders should learn to tell campus activists that some speech is protected and that the university will be taking no action against those who engage in such protected speech.