Academic Freedom and Intellectual Diversity

The subject of academic freedom in universities for both faculty and students has become increasingly controversial in the last decade.This has been especially true in the secular universities (both public and private). As one who has been a student, a professor, and a parent of students, I have experienced this topic from multiple role perspectives. When I was a student I wanted to see my professors present subject matter within a framework where I was able to understand the topic as objectively as possible. If more than one viewpoint was relevant, I wanted to understand those viewpoints and to be able to think critically about them so as to determine my own view. I did not want to feel either indoctrinated or manipulated by my professors based on their personal biases. As a professor I wanted to be able to pursue my research free of pressures to pursue particular subjects or topics that I was not interested in mainly because funds were available for studying other topics or because colleagues who might outrank me wanted me to pursue a particular topic, or because my views were politically unpopular. Certainly as a parent of college students I wanted to believe that my children had the freedom to express their views without feeling pressure from the power their professors had over them by reason of being able to assign their grade in a course.

As the selection of articles below will attest, in practice academic freedom is a very controversial topic.  Just to illustrate, the Ben Stein movie “Expelled: No intelligence allowed”, which opens this month in theaters, explores the issue of whether university professors have the academic freedom to explore the subject of Intelligent Design (ID) in their research in an academic world where Darwinism currently holds the dominant position in the biological sciences. There is a sense, I believe, in many universities that to even consider researching ID is to identify oneself as some sort of religious zealot who is trying to introduce God into the academy.  Needless to say if your  colleagues and/or the university’s administrators have such negative views of your  research interest, you can find yourself in a very hostile work atmosphere. Certainly you can go well beyond this example to other controversial subjects such as the appropriate definition of marriage, the impact of abortion in our society, and encouraging objective studies of various religions and other worldviews. With this brief introduction as background, I welcome you to our LeaderU Special Focus on Academic Freedom. Enjoy…or at least be stimulated to think more deeply about this vital subject.

John Walkup, Ph.D. , Emeritus Horn Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas Tech University

Featured Articles

A Personal Loss of Academic Freedom
Phil Bishop
A veteran professor describes his journey and what academic freedom means and what it does not mean.

If We Ask The Question........
Matthew Connally
Do we simply take life and our surroundings for granted? Are we willing to ask "the question"? Are there answers available to the question? What has science taught us? Most importantly, who is the author of the scientific data?

When Rights are Wrong
Professor William J.Stuntz
Stuntz brilliantly sets up a historical telescope through which to view legal rights as our forefathers saw them, examining how the concept of rights evolved.

Academic Freedom?
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, comments on the academic freedom controversy surrounding Ward Churchill and general confusion on the topic.

Academic Freedom in the Classroom: When "Freedom" Becomes "License"
LuAnn Wright
President of, Wright as a credentialed college instructor, "discusses how faculty’s academic freedom in the classroom can infringe upon students’ rights and upon the learning process itself. Through an analysis of current cases, this study explores issues of academic freedom relating to classroom conflicts between faculty members and students.

Intellectual Diversity on Campus (Off-Site Link)
David Skorton
David Skorton, President of Cornell University, offers his assessment of Intellectual Diversity in the academy.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Off-Site links to reviews and discussions)

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed starring Ben Stein follows his journey around the globe where he discovers that scientists, educators, and philosophers are being fired, ridiculed, or ostracized for challenging the materialist's worldview espoused by some evolutionists that excludes any possibility of God's existence. Merely proposing that life on this planet may not be accidental has cost them on both a personal and professional basis.

While LeaderU does not specifically endorse any movies, we do encourage our readers to see this movie. In addition, we encourage  discussions of the issues raised in the movie.  

Ben Stein's Expelled: A Little Background
Granville Sewell, a professor of mathematics at University of Texas El Paso, offers his thoughts about Expelled.

Expelled Defended and Denounced
Christianity Today offers a sampling of Expelled proponents and critics.

R.C.Sproul Interviews Ben Stein
Dr. R.C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries, interviewed Ben Stein for Sproul's radio broadcast Renewing Your Mind.