ERIC Number: EJ773860
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jul-27
Reference Count: N/A
The Roberts Court and Academic Freedom
Rahdert, Mark C.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v53 n47 pB16 Jul 2007
Since President Bush named Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, speculation has run high as to where the new court may be headed. Citing three recent cases ("Morse v. Frederick", "Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc." and "Garcetti v. Ceballos"), Rahdert expresses concern that current court decisions are limiting free speech in ways that could adversely affect higher education. The author views these decisions as a retraction of constitutional protection for academic debate and inquiry, maintaining that the logic of the arguments support punishing student speech that conflicts with important institutional values, punishing faculty speech that occurs in the course of employment, and punishing the university itself if it fails to comply with external commands regarding the conduct of its auxiliary activities. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, public reaction to the dangers of international terrorism generated an atmosphere of intolerance for political dissent. Higher education, with its concentrations of foreign students and scholars, became a visible and vulnerable target. Rahdert likens this atmosphere with that of sixty years ago, when the United States faced the looming threat of international Communism, and sets forward the idea that the current period has produced similar proposals for academic bills of rights that, in fact, limit university autonomy in setting policies toward academic freedom. Noting that the Supreme Court played an important role in finally bringing the McCarthy period to an end with a series of decisions that extended the protections of the First Amendment to activities of central importance to academe, Rahdert is less hopeful that higher education will receive similar backing from the Roberts court.
Descriptors: Academic Freedom, Court Litigation, Federal Courts, Higher Education, Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Institutional Autonomy
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://chronicle.com/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: First Amendment