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ERIC Number: EJ832754
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Feb-27
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Professors' Freedoms under Assault in the Courts
Schmidt, Peter
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n25 pA1 Feb 2009
Recent court rulings have challenged the long-held concept of academic freedom for faculty members. As an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Kevin J. Renken says he felt obliged to speak out about his belief that administrators there were mishandling a National Science Foundation grant to him and several colleagues. When the university subsequently reduced his pay and returned the grant, he sued, alleging illegal retaliation. Because he is a tenured faculty member, and he viewed the public university's use of public funds as a matter of public interest, Mr. Renken felt his complaints qualified as legally protected free speech. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled last September, that Mr. Renken's statements about the grants were not legally protected speech because he made them as a public-college professor and they related to his job. In order for a public employee to raise a successful First Amendment claim, he must have spoken in his capacity as a private citizen and not as an employee. Other court decisions cited that have raised questions about the status of academic freedom at public colleges and universities include: Pickering v. Board of Education; Connick v. Myers; Garcetti v. Ceballos; Urofsky v. Gilmore; and Hong v. Grant. The American Association of University Professors has begun monitoring legal battles over faculty speech, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the Hong case that argues that "Both in practice and in constitutional law, the actual duties of state university professors implicate--indeed, demand--a broad range of discretion and autonomy that find no parallel elsewhere in public service." Others, including general counsel at the American Council on Education feel that "the cases, to date, have not created any apparent injustices. ... Public-college employees do enjoy First Amendment rights, but that should not turn every case of employee discipline or discharge into a retaliation lawsuit."
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: First Amendment; Pickering v Board of Education