The Purpose (and Limits) of the University
42 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2018
Date Written: February 26, 2018
Scholars of the university have written volumes about contemporary challenges to higher education. Meanwhile, legal scholars writing about the university have typically focused on its First Amendment dimensions rather than on those challenges. This Article links insights from these two groups of scholars to clarify and defend the purpose of the public university against growing technological, ideological, and cultural pressures. It argues that a better understanding of the relationship between the First Amendment and the public university can help strengthen the coherence of the university’s purpose against growing technological, ideological, and cultural pressures. The connection between the First Amendment and institutional purpose is in some ways unsurprising. Limits on expressive liberties have always set the boundaries of expression for political communities, and the university is a kind of political community. These boundaries reflect something about a community’s goals, values, and ultimately, its purpose.
Part I briefly explores the nature of the university. Part II focuses more closely on the residential public university. Part III turns to five issues at the intersection of the First Amendment and the public university: academic freedom, public employee speech, public forums, safe spaces, and religious pluralism.
Keywords: First Amendment, universities, higher education, pluralism, disagreement, safe spaces, religion, public employee speech, public forum
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