The Crumbling Academic Freedom Consensus and the Threat of U.S. Anti-Terrorism Policy

Forum on Public Policy, Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer 2006

77 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2006


The author's argument is that U.S. anti-terrorism policy poses serious threats to academic freedom. The author argues that academic freedom exists as the result of a social compact. Academic freedom is a broader idea than can be protected either by the free speech and free association provisions of the First Amendment or by contract. It continues because of a social compact both inside and outside the academy. The author argues that this compact or consensus was already seriously eroded by 2001 through both commercialization within the academy (including the marketing of higher education and the influence of corporations and ideological non-profit entities in higher education) and the politicization of knowledge, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. In the second half of the paper, the author argues that U.S. anti-terrorism policy further threatens the academic freedom consensus. These policies, embodied in the PATRIOT Act, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (BPARA), threaten academic freedom by increasing surveillance particularly of libraries and library patrons, limiting the availability of visas to qualified international students, institution invasive computerized tracking and reporting of students through systems such as SEVIS, and repealing portions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Academic freedom is also at risk as the result of an expanded federal definition of terrorism and of providing material support for terrorism, increased restrictions on federally funded scientific research, and a climate of censorship of dissenting thought.

Keywords: Academic freedom, first amendment, politicization, commercialization, anti-terrorism, international students, material support of terrorism, PATRIOT Act, FERPA

Suggested Citation

Brandt, Elizabeth Barker, The Crumbling Academic Freedom Consensus and the Threat of U.S. Anti-Terrorism Policy. Forum on Public Policy, Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer 2006, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Barker Brandt (Contact Author)

University of Idaho - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 442321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321
United States
208-885-7733 (Phone)
208-885-7609 (Fax)

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