The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The Academic Freedom Podcast #15 on Recent Controversies
A conversation with Eugene Volokh about the Shapiro controversy and political statements by university leaders
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In this episode, I talk with co-blogger and First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh about a couple of recent blog posts. He recently wrote about the report of the Georgetown University Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action in response to the Ilya Shapiro controversy at the Georgetown University Law Center. I have discussed the Shapiro controversy in past blog posts, and the Academic Freedom Alliance wrote a letter to GULC in regard to its investigation of him. Eugene had access to the IDEAA report, however, and concluded that it had disconcerting implications for the future of free speech and academic freedom at Georgetown well beyond Shapiro himself. If the university were to apply the principles laid out in the report in a consistent manner, a wide swath of ordinary political discourse could result in employees being fired and students being suspended. Of course, the university might choose not to apply those principles in a consistent manner and instead regard its report as a restricted ticket good for this day and train only. Eugene unpacks the report and why it should make professors nervous and why it means that Georgetown's Free Expression Policy might not be worth very much.
I also wanted to discuss with him a separate blog post about the University of California president's official public statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The statement was a bit unusual in declaring the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution to be "antithetical to the University of California's mission and values." Conservative students and faculty members in the University of California system might well wonder whether the president regards many of their views—and even their scholarship or presence on campus—as antithetical to the university's mission and values. A conservative taxpayer might well wonder whether public funding should continue to be directed toward an institution that understands its mission in such a way. Our conversation explores the issue of political statements by university leaders and the logic behind the 1967 Kalven Report from the University of Chicago, which emphasized that universities as such should generally not take positions on matters of contested public policy and should understand their mission as providing a home for students and scholars who hold a diverse range of views on such issues.