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Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom Alliance Letter on a Disinvitation at University of Dayton

The AFA calls on the University of Dayton to allow its faculty to hear from the speakers they want


The Academic Freedom Alliance released a public letter to the University of Dayton calling on the university to reaffirm its own commitments to freedom of thought after an unfortunate administrative intervention into a scholarly conference organized by members of its faculty and held on the university campus.

The Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton organized a conference that was held on campus in December. Tlaleng Mofokeng was invited to be a keynote speaker to discuss the public health issues relating to the pandemic. Mofokeng is a Special Rapporteur with the United Nations. She is also a medical doctor in South Africa and has apparently performed abortions. The university leadership disinvited Mofokeng, stating that the Mofokeng's actions relating to abortion were contrary to the Catholic mission of the university and that her presence threatened to cause "negative reactions" that would "disrupt" the conference.

Although a religious institution, Dayton has in place a fairly robust academic freedom policy that simply replicates the standard American Association of University Professors principles. Given that commitment to faculty, the university's actions in intervening in an academic program and disinviting a speaker is a significant intrusion into academic freedom principles and undercuts the university's stated commitments.

The University of Dayton sent the Academic Freedom Alliance a letter similar in substance to the one posted at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which contended that the university remained committed to robust debate on campus but that Mofokeng's actions as a doctor made her unwelcome on a Catholic campus. Unfortunately, the university's response suggests that the administration feels free to intervene to overrule faculty decisions on how to construct academic events if such events are "highly visible" and "widely promoted." This is deeply at odds with how universities that commit themselves to traditional principles of academic freedom should behave.

If the University of Dayton prefers to maintain such an administrative veto over scholarly programming organized by its faculty, then it should say so plainly and revise its faculty handbook to clarify that its faculty will not, in fact, be entitled to the same robust form of academic freedom that professors might enjoy at other American universities.

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  1. This school's government privileges, subsidies, grants, and funding should be cancelled and shut down for its indoctrination policy. It is not education.

    1. Behar,
      Why are you a broken record. Sometimes your comments are amusing, some even hit the mark. But any OP about universities gets this comment. It is not happening. Give it a rest.

      1. It is not happening.

        Especially since this university is private.

  2. Would you feel better if they charged her and the inviting faculty hundreds of thousands of dollars for "security" they fail to provide while simultaneously working to make the disruption as big as possible? Seems to be the general MO for progressive universities.

  3. Maybe faculty at a Catholic school ought to have better sense than invite a baby killer.

    1. Just as mainstream society should have had the sense to refrain from accrediting "schools" that suppress science to flatter superstition; warp history to defend dogma; teach nonsense; and discriminate in hiring (faculty members, administrators, basketball coaches, bus drivers) and admissions against people who decline to mouth an affirmation that fairy tales are true.

      1. Be careful. Proceeding like a locomotive to define changes as unassailable received wisdom, that, like a religious tenet, Shall Not Be Questioned, is no friend to humanity either.

        That's how we got into this position.

      2. " against people who decline to mouth an affirmation that fairy tales are true."

        You'd have to fire half the facult in higher education, who believe in some form of Marxism.

        1. As well as those who believe in "systemic racism." (There is an overlap.)

    2. Hope none of their UPS or FedEx drivers have ever had anything to do with abortions. Do they similarly vet their cafeteria staff, or janitors? Were their buildings built, or are they maintained, by any similar sinners? Do they have official vehicles, and were any of those built, sold, or maintained by other sinners?

      What a shame if the Catholic University of Daytona were shown to be a steaming pile of hypocrites.

      1. Bob's never met a standard he wasn't willing to double. He calls it realism.

        1. A Catholic school should not openly violate Catholic dogma, she can speak at Yale or other godless places.

          While I may not be 100% consistent, I support "cancel culture" in college faculty, entertainment and journalism because it will affect far more libs due to their cultural dominance. A review of my comments can confirm that.

          1. Its not her views either, its the fact that she has actually killed babies.

          2. Catholic schools are godless, too.

            They're just too gullible to recognize it (or too cowardly to acknowledge it).

      2. "Hope none of their UPS or FedEx drivers have ever had anything to do with abortions. Do they similarly vet their cafeteria staff, or janitors? Were their buildings built, or are they maintained, by any similar sinners? Do they have official vehicles, and were any of those built, sold, or maintained by other sinners?"

        Strawmen are dangerous, could catch on fire.

        Its a "Human Rights" center [ignoring the rights of unborn humans] inviting a prominent person, not a rando delivery driver.

      3. Your comparison is lame. Inviting a keynote speaker who herself performed abortions is miles away from using a Fedex deliveryperson who might have some tangential connection to an abortion. Do you seriously think the two are at all comparable?

        1. Hypocrisy is a steep slippery slope. That's what I think. Glass houses and all that. I'd bet more than a few of the faculty and staff have skeletons in their own closets.

          1. "more than a few of the faculty and staff have skeletons "

            How many have killed unborn babies?

            There are sins and thee are SINS.

        2. For what it's worth, I am also a big fan of freedom of association, despise affirmative racism, and think the Catholic University of Daytona should be free to do whatever they want. But that doesn't mean I won't sneer at their hypocrisy.

  4. Any "University" that bans viewpoints in this way should have large construction equipment pull down the word "University" at their grand campus entrances.

    Fraud is illegal.

  5. Query for the AFA. If the invited speaker was one of the following, would your position be the same or different? And if different, why?

    (1) Someone who served in the South African apartheid regime and supported it.
    (2) Someone who assisted the Rwanda genocide in the early 90s.
    (3) Someone who is a member of a Neo-Nazi party in another country.
    (4) Someone who owns slaves in another country where it is legal.

    Let's say for argument's sake the person, apart from doing one of the above, had some expertise that was relevant to the conference -- for example, like here, the person had experience in public health and the pandemic that might be educational.

    1. I think you raise a good question.

      Is she being banned because of her ideas, or because of past behavior the school considers immoral?

      Suppose she had simply spoken out in favor of legal abortion, but not performed any herself? Would you approve of the school's action?

  6. One of the problems with this continuous stream of letters is that universities no longer feel that they have to do their own policing of academic freedom.

    The thinking is that if they do something and they don't get caught ... it probably wasn't so bad. At the end of the day, you cannot force someone to uphold their own stated ideals ... especially if hypocrisy is no longer an embarrassment.

  7. Lets be consistent on both/all sides of the ideological spectrum - freedom of speech, free exchange of ideas, full & open discussion. Lets quit banning speakers.

    The federalist society has the right attitude, they invite opposing views to their forums.

  8. Wait, I just learned that Tlaleng Mofokeng once Tweeted that "Putin ain't so bad." This of course changes the situation altogether - she should be extra-specially disinvited, and not only that, but her image and voice should not be exhibited anywhere in the university's vicinity.

    1. Wait, I just got another update - she didn't actually Tweet that "Putin ain't so bad," she said Putin was a "bad person." But she failed to ritualistically invoke a curse against him, thus showing that she isn't sufficiently anti-Putin. For her softness on Russian aggression, she should be demoted to Special Rapporteur for Picking up Litter in the UN Building.

  9. The glass is one-tenth full and nine-tenths empty.

    On the one hand, a Catholic university draws the line at having an actual abortionist as a keynote speaker at a human rights conference. So that's one-tenth full.

    On the other hand, a Catholic university has a Human Rights Center which wants an abortionist to be a keynote speaker at a human rights conference. So I'll say nine-tenths empty.

    A Human Rights Center should take the lead in *defending* human rights.

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