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Principles of American Academic Freedom

Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post

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An exploration of the meaning of academic freedom in American higher education

Debates about academic freedom have become increasingly fierce and frequent. Legislative efforts to regulate American professors proliferate across the nation. Although most American scholars desire to protect academic freedom, they have only a vague and uncertain apprehension of its basic principles and structure. This book offers a concise explanation of the history and meaning of American academic freedom, and it attempts to intervene in contemporary debates by clarifying the fundamental functions and purposes of academic freedom in America.

Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post trace how the American conception of academic freedom was first systematically articulated in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and how this conception was in subsequent years elaborated and applied by Committee A of the AAUP. The authors discuss the four primary dimensions of academic freedom—research and publication, teaching, intramural speech, and extramural speech. They carefully distinguish academic freedom from the kind of individual free speech right that is created by the First Amendment. The authors strongly argue that academic freedom protects the capacity of faculty to pursue the scholar’s profession according to the standards of that profession.

Matthew W. Finkin is Albert J. Harno and Edward W. Cleary Chair in Law, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Law. He lives in Champaign. Robert C. Post is Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, Yale Law School. He lives in New Haven, CT.

Click here to read an interview with the authors on Inside Higher Ed

"[This book] is right on target. And you just have to love a book . . . that declares that while faculty must 'respect students as persons,' they are under no obligation to respect the 'ideas held by students.' Way to go!"—Stanley Fish, New York Times

“This book is certainly the best and clearest analysis I have read on the theory and practice of academic freedom. It should be required reading for anyone interested in this important subject.”—Derek Bok, The 300th Anniversary University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University

"There is no better corrective—or alternative—to the 'corporate' University than this courageous book that redefines the spirit of 'academic freedom' for our times. In recalling the principles of common law and the public good that underlie the ideals of academic freedom, Post and Finkin have held our scholarly profession to its highest standards, and saved us—as scholars and teachers—from the glib and glittering inducements of the intellectual market place."—Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities Department of English and American Literature and Language Director, Harvard Humanities Center, Harvard University

“At a time when too many of academic freedom’s defenders and critics are unclear about just what academic freedom is—and is not—this historically grounded, lucid formulation of academic freedom’s basic principles is of extraordinary value.“—David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley

"A handy and readable survey of theory and practice, with pointed illustrations of faculty renegades and administrator tyrants, along with the AAUP's efforts to arbitrate the delicate balance between intellectual innovation and academic duty, adversarial minds and scholarly guidelines."—Mark Bauerlein, The Weekly Standard

"This is a powerful and pragmatic argument about the importance of professional standards to maintain the integrity of knowledge production."—The Journal of Legal Education

"[Finkin and Post] do a good job answering the question: Why does an enterprise dedicated to the production of new knowledge require academic freedom to achieve its disciplinary goals? (Note that this brackets the question of whether those goals should be valued and honored by the rest of the world.)  . . . If you want to think seriously about academic freedom and you’re looking for a place to begin, this is the book for you."—Stanley Fish, Texas Law Review, Volume 88, Issue 1

"By breaking down academic freedom into the component parts of teaching, research, intramural speech, and extramural speech, the authors show how a vibrant version of academic freedom functions not as an immunity, but rather as a means for faculty to challenge intellectual orthodoxies while also being valued contributors to mainstream life."—S. B. Lichtman, Choice

"It's the book's succinct but thorough examination of academic freedom that makes it a must-have for every academic law library."—Wael B. Hallaq, Law Library Journal
ISBN: 9780300177527
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
272 pages, 5 1/4 x 8
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