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How prevalent were violations of academic freedom?
|Posted By: Ross Mitchell on August 15, 2002|
|The cases cited are quite interesting and important, independent of the prevalence of public reaction by faculty members in response to 9/11. However, I think it would be valuable to know just how many attempts were made to silence dissenting or unpopular voices. |
Here are some questions that should be answered:
Was this a common activity? Was it more common in some places than others? Was it only likely to occur within days, weeks, or months of September 11, 2001? Were there instigators digging up personal histories for the production of a political spectacle? Are there numerous counter cases, where academic freedom was exercised without inhibition? If so, are there clear reasons for why these differences would exist?
For example, the two big faculty cases cited were both Bush stronghold states (i.e., Texas and Florida). More importantly, these states have political traditions that are rather similar to each other (not just similar for electing brothers as their respective governors), but very different from many other states, so it would be interesting to find out if states with similar political traditions were more or less likely to try to rein in those who would exercise their academic freedom.
Precedent and case law, since they represent fundamental guiding principles and their application, are very important. Prevalence, representativeness, popularity, etc. can often be completely ignored when precedents are established. Nonetheless, while we seek to protect our cherished principles, we must also try to understand just how many people actually sought to undermine the principle of academic freedom. It could very well be that the problem is not the ubiquity of tyranny, or at least its increasing commonality, but just tyranny itself.