The death of academic freedom

See update for November 9, 2021, at end of post.


After intense blowback, the University of Florida has now acquiesced. Three political science professors may now, after all, testify as expert witnesses, and be compensated for their testimony, against Florida’s efforts to limit voter access.[1] The university had previously forbidden the testimony citing a conflict of interest with the university as a state actor.[2]

The professors are suing anyway, alleging that the University’s policy, which enabled the prohibition on their testimony in the first place, has not been changed and infringes academic freedom. Apparently, other professors had also been affected and I don’t know how you sensibly argue that the University wasn’t simply pandering to Florida Republicans who control the state government and, thus, a significant part of University funding.[3]

This problem is inherent to political control of academic pursestrings and, as we see with the cases of Steven Salaita, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Cornel West,[4] given epistemological politicization and polarization, the battles may continue but the war is almost certainly lost. Academic freedom has already been chilled and will surely perish.


Update, November 9, 2021: Text originally published as an update here has been moved to a new blog post entitled, “The inexcusable, insufferable idiots coming to Austin.”

  1. [1]Lindsay Ellis, “After Scathing Criticism, U. of Florida Will Let Professors Testify Against the State,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 5, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/after-scathing-criticism-u-of-florida-will-let-professors-testify-against-the-state; Colleen Flaherty, “Just the End of the Beginning,” Inside Higher Ed, November 8, 2021, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/11/08/uf-says-professors-can-be-paid-experts-theyre-suing-anyway
  2. [2]Andrew Jeong, “University of Florida bars faculty from testifying in voting rights lawsuit against DeSantis administration,” Washington Post, October 30, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/30/florida-voting-rights-desantis-lawsuit/
  3. [3]Lindsay Ellis, “After Scathing Criticism, U. of Florida Will Let Professors Testify Against the State,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 5, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/after-scathing-criticism-u-of-florida-will-let-professors-testify-against-the-state; Colleen Flaherty, “Just the End of the Beginning,” Inside Higher Ed, November 8, 2021, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/11/08/uf-says-professors-can-be-paid-experts-theyre-suing-anyway
  4. [4]Jon Allsop, “On NHJ, UNC, and CRT,” Columbia Journalism Review, June 25, 2021, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/nikole_hannah_jones_unc_tenure.php; Timothy Bella, “Cornel West says in resignation letter over tenure dispute that Harvard is in ‘decline and decay,’” Washington Post, July 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/07/13/cornel-west-harvard-tenure-resignation/; Brendan Cantwell, “The Culture War Has Come for Higher Ed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 12, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-culture-war-has-come-for-higher-ed; Len Gutkin, “Nikole Hannah-Jones and the Eclipse of Faculty Autonomy; the CDC and Paranoia,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 24, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/newsletter/chronicle-review/2021-05-24; Scott Jaschik, “Another Lost Job for Salaita,” Inside Higher Ed, April 14, 2016, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/04/14/reports-circulate-american-beirut-has-blocked-permanent-appointment; Lauren Lumpkin and Nick Anderson, “Nikole Hannah-Jones to join Howard faculty after UNC tenure controversy,” Washington Post, July 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/07/06/howard-nikole-hannah-jones-tanehisi-coates/; Peter Schmidt, “U. of Illinois Board’s Denial of Job to Salaita Is Unlikely to Quell Controversy,” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 11, 2014, https://www.chronicle.com/article/u-of-illinois-boards-denial-of-job-to-salaita-is-unlikely-to-quell-controversy/; Jack Stripling, “‘What the Hell Happened?,’” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 11, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/what-the-hell-happened; Jack Stripling, “‘Look Us in the Eye,’” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 1, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/look-us-in-the-eye; Tahirah Walker, “Higher education and I are going through a break-up, a conscious uncoupling, a disentanglement,” Public Source, July 8, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/higher-education-pittsburgh-perspective/; Megan Zahneis, “His University Celebrated His Success. Then It Fired Him,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 17, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/his-university-celebrated-his-success-then-it-fired-him; Megan Zahneis, “Cornel West’s Resignation Letter Cites ‘Decline and Decay’ at Harvard Divinity School,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 13, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/cornel-wests-resignation-letter-cites-decline-and-decay-at-harvard-divinity-school; Megan Zahneis, “Scholar Who Claimed He Was Fired for Speaking Out Settles With U. of Mississippi,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/scholar-who-claimed-he-was-fired-for-speaking-out-settles-with-u-of-mississippi; Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz, “American U. of Beirut Denies That It Blocked Center’s Hiring of Salaita,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 14, 2016, http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/american-u-of-beirut-denies-that-it-blocked-centers-hiring-of-salaita/110386

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