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Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom Alliance Letter to Concordia University Wisconsin

The AFA calls on Concordia University Wisconsin to recognize the academic freedom of Prof. Gregory Schulz


The Academic Freedom Alliance released a public letter to Concordia University Wisconsin calling on the university to reaffirm the academic freedom of philosophy professor Gregory Schulz.

Schulz is active speaker and writer for public audiences on issues associated with the Lutheran Church, with which Concordia University Wisconsin is affiliated. Earlier this month, he published an online article, "Woke Dysphoria at Concordia," critical of the rise of "wokeism" in American society, in the Lutheran Church, and at Concordia University Wisconsin and criticized in particular how the presidential search was conducted at the university. In apparent response to that public criticism of the university, Schulz was suspended and barred from entering the campus as the university contemplated the future of his employment there.

This controversy is all too familiar. Professor writes something for a public audience that is critical of university administrators, and university administrators respond by retaliating against the professor. From a traditional academic freedom perspective, this sort of thing is a cut-and-dried violation of the professor's academic freedom under the American Association of University Professors standards. This sort of retaliation against "extramural speech" would also be a First Amendment problem for a public university.

The situation here is unusual, however, in that Concordia University Wisconsin is an explicitly religious institution. As such, it has not adopted traditional academic freedom protections and imposes some unusual restrictions on faculty speech. Even so, Concordia does have an academic freedom policy, and the university's action in this case goes well beyond the bounds of what the university has reserved to itself when it comes to professorial speech.

Schulz is not challenging accepted Lutheran doctrine or subverting the mission of the university as a Christian institution. He is criticizing the policy decisions of the university administration and whether the administration's actions should be regarded as consistent with Lutheran commitments properly understood. For the university to punish and suppress speech of that sort would be to dramatically limit professorial speech and call into question whether Concordia is capable of operating as a recognizable institution of higher education.

From the letter:

If robust criticism of university governance and policies is understood in itself to be a hindrance to the mission of the university or that participating in an ongoing public debate over the social commitments of the Lutheran church and Lutheran educational institutions is inconsistent with responsibilities of members of the faculty, then the university will have dramatically departed from ordinary understandings of the duties and responsibilities of professors in American universities, including American universities dedicated to a Christian mission. Of course, Professor Schulz has a responsibility not to "advocate a position contrary to that of the Synod," but here he is participating in a public debate on what the implications of the Synod's positions might be for the university. If faculty at the university must refrain from speaking in public about the future of the university and the fidelity of the university's activities to the positions of the Synod, then the university's commitment to the faculty to value their individuality and to engage in intellectual inquiry will be an empty promise.

Speech on such controversial social and political topics can sometimes be heated and disruptive, but universities should be places where scholars can in good faith engage in a robust debate over the principles and commitments of the community. If university leaders are willing to sanction faculty members for such speech, particularly when such speech involves criticisms of university administration, then free intellectual inquiry will be stifled rather than encouraged and the university will not be able to perform its charge  of supplying "the higher education services needed to accomplish the mission of the church."

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. "This sort of retaliation against "extramural speech" would also be a First Amendment problem for a public university."

    From the declaration of (American) Independence:
    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

    So how does it matter how the university is chartered, public or private? If it violates my rights, the government is supposed to secure them.

    1. The founding fathers had absolutely no concept of private citizens having rights enforced upon private citizens by the government, other than by contracts enforced in civil court. And that's probably this professors recourse.

      1. Legislatures back then jealously guarded their privilege of chartering corporations. Supposedly corporations were created to serve the public interest via charters approved by the legislature. So a lot would depend on the terms of the charter. Suits over whether a charter was being observed could be seen as private v. private, in modern terms.

        Though I doubt the courts would get involved in evaluating whether, say, a Lutheran institution was observing Lutheran principles.

        1. Please, I beg you. Stop the letters. Can you please start acting to go after these rogue university by filing complaints with the Non-Profit Office of the IRS to de-exempt, with accrediting agencies, and with the FBI to seize their assets for tax fraud. They promised education, and delivered indoctrination. In education, all sides of a subject are reviewed. When one side is allowed, it is indoctrination and tax fraud has taken place.

      2. The whole concept of torts is government (courts) enforcing the rights of private citizens against other private citizens.

    2. Getting yelled at or boycotted by other private citizens is not a violation of your rights. On the contrary, the only way to prevent other people from saying mean things about you would be the explicitly violate the free speech rights of those others.

      1. What does "saying mean things" entail? It would, I presume, depend on the situation.

    3. You do not have the rights you think you have. Although the Constitution protects your speech or religious belief and expression from governmental sanctions (with certain exceptions), it does not purport to protect your speech or religious belief and expression from private consequences. And there is no other source for such protection. You have no right to free speech on the job, or in someone else's home or place of business. You have no right to disagree with the teachings of what you believe to be your church and expect that church not to sanction you. You have no right to teach Marxist economics at the University of Chicago, or to teach neo-classical economics at a private college devoted to Marxian analysis, except insofar as the respective colleges agree to permit it. And aggressively enforcing such rights in the private sector would largely eliminate its character as "private."
      That's why the government does not enforce the rights you think you have.

      1. You have just made a very eloquent defense of the Hollywood blacklist.

        1. As a purely legal matter, there was never much question about it. Hence the lack of lawsuits.

          1. "Actor John Ireland received an out-of-court settlement to end a 1954 lawsuit against the Young & Rubicam advertising agency, which had ordered him dropped from the lead role in a television series it sponsored. Variety described it as "the first industry admission of what has for some time been an open secret – that the threat of being labeled a political non-conformist, or worse, has been used against show business personalities, and that a screening system is at work determining these [actors'] availabilities for roles"."


  2. Administrators are idiots.

    That is all.

  3. Seems like these letters are going out weekly to various universities ... either academia has an identity crisis, or there is a deliberate national effort to weaken tenure.

  4. Wendys Menu Prices 2021: Wendy’s is a well-known fast-food chain that is based in Ohio. It is famous worldwide for its own brand of fries, burgers, and desserts, in addition to other items.

  5. Wendys Menu Prices 2021: Wendy’s is a well-known fast-food chain that is based in Ohio. It is famous worldwide for its own brand of fries, burgers, and desserts, in addition to other items.

  6. The article that apparently underlies this dispute relies heavily on religious points. Perhaps the institution concluded that it no longer wishes to associate with the professor for religious reasons -- such as a view that Jesus is an appeaser of neither bigots nor bigotry -- and that the professor's statements constitute spiritual heresy.

    "Religious liberty," like many other concepts, can be relatively elastic when politics and the culture war are involved.

  7. Justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Barrett suggested otherwise in their statement respecting denial of certiorari. He is a minister so they can do whatever they feel like to him.

    1. In these contexts, I don't think the courts are allowed to get into questions about what parts of Lutheranism are true or essential. So if that's what the guy is complaining about, his recourse is to his denomination, or to the "court of public opinion."

  8. McAdams v. Marquette all over again.

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