The Volokh Conspiracy

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Academic Freedom

The Academic Freedom Podcast #14 on Controversial Public Speech

A conversation with David Rabban about the scope of protections for extramural and intramural speech


A new episode of The Academic Freedom Podcast from the Academic Freedom Alliance is now available. Subscribe through your favorite platform so you don't miss an episode.

In this episode I talk with David Rabban about controversial public speech by professors and the scope of protection that such speech should have and does have under common university policies. Whether such speech should be protected at all was a source of debate among those advancing academic freedom principles and protections in the United States in the early twentieth century, but the major policy statements of the American Association of University Professors included protections for political speech in the public arena by professors. David and I have both argued that the logic of protecting such speech is better understood in relation to free speech policies than academic freedom policies. My article on this is here.

Extramural speech remains a frequent point of contention on college campuses. The rise of social media has created many new opportunities for professors to say controversial things in public and for critics of professorial speech to organize themselves to put pressure on universities. The AFA has intervened in several extramural speech controversies, including those involving Amy Wax at the University of Pennsylvania, Ilya Shapiro at Georgetown University Law Center, Stephen Kershnar at SUNY-Fredonia, Allyn Walker at Old Dominion University, Robert Mann at Louisiana State University, Tom Smith at the University of San Diego, and Lynne Chandler Garcia at the Air Force Academy.

David Rabban is professor at the University of Texas Law School and an expert on the First Amendment and academic freedom. He previously served as the general counsel to the American Association of University Professors, and he now serves on the academic committee of the Academic Freedom Alliance.

The episode provides a deep dive into the history of extramural speech protections and controversies, the principles protecting such speech, and the related protections for faculty speech in university meetings. Listen to the whole thing here.