Academic Freedom

What is academic freedom? This morning I received a regular blog entry email from NT scholar Mark Goodacre disgust over the firing of another NT scholar from Lincoln Christian University. LCU is in our part of the state (about 75 miles west of my home). I have never heard of the professor, and it is most certainly the case that I have not read his book that brought about the firing/discussion.

Is academic freedom an umbrella that allows one to live under a banner and go where ever he/she wants to go with the claim? I do not know. I do think, however, that academic freedom has some warrant, but with that freedom must come limitation. We are free in this country to do as we will, but with that freedom there is the responsibility to adhere to the laws of the land. Is our freedom taken away in this regard? I suppose some might argue such, but the limitation associated with the freedom, if removed, moves into chaos.

An institution of higher learning has a basis for existence. If that basis (charter) for existence is compromised what is to be said about their mission? Whatever is to be said, it seem to me, an institution has warrant to set forth the principles that it believes in, and enforce them. If a student compromises that foundational basis the school has an obligation to deal appropriately with the offender. Additionally, if an institution agrees with a potential employee that certain things must be subscribed to, then the candidate for employment must subscribe to them or lose his employment. On the other hand, if an institution of higher learning promotes academic freedom “wherever the ‘truth’ takes them,” then the institution has willingly aligned themselves with much variety of thought – however hairbrained[1] it (or they) might be.

What holds sway then? Is it the freedom of the employee or the basis for existence of the institution? Academic freedom and a school’s charter are not at odds, but they can be.


[1] Is there even such a word? If not, and I found nothing in the dictionary I have to suggest there is, then perhaps I coined it – all in the name of academic freedom!