Join a Discussion on Academic Freedom

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 16, 2011

Recently there’s been a scholastic buzzword whispered around campuses, tossed about in debate and splashed onto newspaper headlines. But what exactly is academic freedom?

Loosely defined, academic freedom is the belief that inquiry lies at the root of academia, and scholars should retain the liberty of teaching and communicating facts without fear of repression, job loss or imprisonment. It also permits students to understand required material without adopting certain opinions on which other individuals or groups may disagree.

It may sound simple enough, however, the idea of academic freedom is surrounded by controversy, and especially after 9/11, threats to academic freedom have escalated. Some believe that the freedom to express opinions and ideas without restriction in the university is no longer acceptable, that offensive views should not be heard. Others believe that this destroys the very meaning of the university, to pursue knowledge without fear or preferential treatment, by supporting a climate of increasing restrictions on intellectual activity and freedom of speech.

Do you think it’s possible to have unfettered expression, discussion and testing of ideas without yielding offense or complaint? Post your thoughts below and join in on the discussion.