On Academic Freedom and Institutional Neutrality

by Eric Schliesser on March 22, 2024

A few months ago Jacob Levy (McGill)  published a lengthy Op-Ed, “Campus culture wars are a teachable moment in how freedom of speech and academic freedom differ,” in the Globe and Mail. It offered a salutary account on the nature of academic freedom in the aftermath of the “Dec. 5 U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing grilling the leaders of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, and the subsequent resignation of two of them, Harvard’s Claudine Gay and Penn’s Elizabeth Magill.”

Before I get to our differences, I agree with much of Levy’s analysis not the least his account of the difference(s) between academic freedom and freedom of speech. In particular, according to Levy a “university’s core commitment is to the discovery, transmission and preservation of knowledge – paradigmatically, what is done in research, in teaching, and in publication and library collection. The principle that defends that commitment is not freedom of speech as such, but rather academic freedom.”

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