Academic freedom : the silencing of the faculty




Carter, William Erickson

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The purpose of this study is to examine the status of academic freedom and, more specifically, intramural and extramural speech at universities in the U.S. since 2000. Court opinions and briefs from benchmark court cases and the faculty's perspective of current academic freedom issues are analyzed to determine dominant trends and themes that have evolved since 2000. While others have studied the relationship between the First Amendment and academic freedom, this analysis brings current the discourse concerning the effect First Amendment court decisions have on the faculty speech. The central research question is to determine the effect court decisions have on the intramural and extramural speech of faculty and specifically to study how federal, state, and local events since 2000 have affected (a) the academic freedom of faculty in general, (b) the way universities handle faculty intramural speech, (c) the way universities handle faculty extramural speech when they speak both as a citizen and a public university employee, and (d) the ability of faculty to defend their academic freedom. Using post-modern theory, the two-phased mixed methods study deconstructs and analyzes (a) the six First Amendment court opinions and briefs and (b) the 19 interviews of public university faculty members. The first phase identified 11 dominant themes, which were used as the basis for the coding and the 19 interviews of public university faculty members. The interview coding and analysis identified 15 themes. Based on the Pearson Correlation Coefficient, four themes were identified in the court opinions and six in the interviews are discussed. The second phase also included surveys of the faculty interviewed and a quantitative analysis of the responses in order to classify the sample. The study found that public universities have complete control over academic freedom, and that it is a privilege granted to faculty based on their scholarly association with the university, not a right. Public university administrators, general counsels, deans, department chairs, and faculty will benefit from the study as it provides an intensive analysis of post-2000 court case logic and the current perceptions and apprehensions that faculty have concerning their intramural and extramural speech rights.



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