The Volokh Conspiracy

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Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom and the Mission of the University

Draft article on academic freedom now available


In November 2021, I was a commentator in response to the 26th Annual Frankel Lecture at the University of Houston Law Center. The keynote was delivered by Harvard Law School Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen on "Academic Freedom and Discrimination in a Polarizing Time." Responses were delivered by Berkeley Law School Professor Khiara M. Bridges and me. You can view a recording of the event here.

My paper on "Academic Freedom and the Mission of the University" will be published as part of the symposium issue of the Houston Law Review later this year. I have now posted a draft version at SSRN.  From the abstract:

The utility of academic freedom depends on the particular mission of a university. In a system in which institutions of higher education are dedicated to truth-seeking and the advancement and dissemination of human knowledge, then robust protections for academic freedom for scholars and instructors is essential to effectuating that mission. As American universities adopted this as their central mission, the groundwork was laid for the development of ideas and practices of academic freedom in the United States. Academic freedom is much less useful, or even counterproductive, if universities prioritized some other mission over truth-seeking. Unfortunately, there are several competing missions currently in play around universities, and to the extent that any of them become central to how we understand the rationale and operation of American universities then academic freedom as a meaningful set of protections for dissident scholars will eventually suffer.

You can download the full paper here.