Monday, July 27, 2015

Not Everything an Academic does is Covered by Academic Freedom

Caught a great Letter to the Editor in the Washington State Journal, "Not every action is 'academic freedom' -- Gary L. Kriewald".  It's saying something I have been saying as well.  You might check it out.  The bottom line is simple, just because someone is an academic, that does not give them carte blanche to do/say anything they want and expect the academic community to rally in their defense.

Recently Sara Youcha Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, tweeted against Wisconsin's elimination of faculty tenure from state statute.  Now, before we go any further, I have absolutely no issue with her commenting about that subject.  To me, that falls under 'Free Speech' -- which we've discussed before, so I won't get up on my soapbox about free speech and responsibilities.  To be honest, I didn't care for her posts, especially when she compared the governor with Adolf Hitler and discouraged future students from attending the university.  But she has the right to tweet.  But she should also accept the responsibility for what she tweets!

Now, my question is does her actions fall under Academic Freedom?  I say it does not.  If an employee other than an academic had done something like that, they more than likely would have been terminated!  I do not feel that her comments should be cloaked under the guise of academic freedom!  To me that is nothing more than a way for her to avoid taken responsibility for her published communication!  She should be free to offer her opinions, and the University should be free to take the action they feel is appropriate. 

In my opinion her effort to discourage students from attending her university, then she should be making plans to relive herself of what must be an onerous environment and find employment elsewhere.  She should not be able to hide behind the mantle of  'academic freedom' for something unrelated to her curriculum area, but an administrative issue between her and the school. 

To me the issue was compounded by the Faculty Senate Steering Committee when they responded about being "deeply dismayed" by her actions, which they felt had damaged the principle of academic freedom.  In my opinion, by taking the position that they did, the Steering Committee is actually enabling an abuse of Academic Freedom.  What they should have ruled, in my opinion, is that her tweets were not covered under Academic Freedom and she should be help responsible for her communications, like anyone else would have been.

While people, including myself, like to toss around phrases like 'Free Speech' and 'Academic Freedom', everyone should be aware that there are limitations on them and neither of them is a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card.  People should be held accountable for their actions, which include tweets, Instagrams, and blog posts.  Now you also know why my name and email is on this blog.  I originally started it with the id of 'tedhohio', and anyone who Googled that would find it pretty easy to find me.  But a couple of years into it, I changed to use my name!  To me it is a form of taking responsibilities for my opinions!

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