ERIC Number: EJ785144
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Dec
Reference Count: N/A
Academic Freedom: Constitutional Myths and Practical Realities
Thro, William E.
Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, v19 n3-4 p135-145 Dec 2007
Academic Freedom is a sacrosanct value on American university campuses. Virtually all research institutions, public and private, have explicitly adopted some form of the American Association of University Professors' 1940 "Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure" or the organization's the 1915 "Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom & Tenure". Because of the near universal acceptance of the principle of academic freedom, there is a common belief that the United States Constitution recognizes academic freedom and, more importantly, confers "special rights" on the persons and institutions of academia. Yet, despite its almost universal acceptance by faculty and administrators and despite its constant use as a constitutional theory whenever faculty and/or administrators dislike a government program, academic freedom is a "constitutional myth." The rights of individual academics or of academic institutions are no greater than the rights of individual non-academics or of non-academic agencies or institutions. Put another way, from a constitutional standpoint, there is nothing special about the academic setting. Academic Freedom is no greater, and no lesser, than the constitutional rights of non-academics or ordinary state agencies. Nevertheless, academic freedom must be respected as a "practical reality." There are important public policy reasons why university professors should have wide latitude in their research, writing, and teaching efforts. At the same time, institutions should be given a large amount of discretion in determining the scope of their missions. In other words, while academic freedom is not a federal constitutional value, it should be an important public policy consideration and, perhaps, even a state constitutional value. The purpose of this Article is twofold. First, it seeks to demonstrate that academic freedom is a constitutional myth. Institutional academic freedom, the idea that institutions of higher education have a federal constitutional right to be free from outside control, is simply incompatible with constitutional realities. Moreover, professors do not have an individual constitutional right to academic freedom. In short, the rights of professors and the institutions that employ them are no greater than the rights of non-academic employees and non-academic organizations. Second, it attempts to explain why respect for academic freedom is a practical reality.
Descriptors: College Faculty, Academic Freedom, Constitutional Law, Mythology, Campuses, Colleges, Public Policy, Values, Theory Practice Relationship, Equal Protection
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: United States Constitution