Academic Freedom

23 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2006

See all articles by Larry Alexander

Larry Alexander

University of San Diego School of Law


In this essay I take up the question of who is entitled to "academic freedom." By academic freedom I do not mean whatever first amendment rights professors and students possess with regard to the content of published research, class discussion, and informal remarks. That is a nettlesome topic, to be sure, but it is not mine, primarily because academic freedom is thought to extend to professors at private universities that are beyond the reach of the first amendment. Rather, by academic freedom I mean that freedom from job reprisals that is due academics when functioning as academics. And I argue that only when academics are so functioning is academic freedom their due.

On many campuses today there is a sizeable number of academics who are not so functioning in their publications or in their classrooms. Rather, they are engaging in crude political polemics. That is because disciplinary standards have vanished from many departments, especially in the humanities and social sciences, largely due to the confluence of identity politics and crude postmodernism, and abetted by the overwhelming political orthodoxy of the academy. If faculty are not faithful to arguments and evidence, assessed by traditional disciplinary standards, but are engaging in political polemics undisciplined by such standards, then actual politicians have as much claim to control the academy as do these politicized ersatz academics. For academic freedom is not their due.

Keywords: academic freedom, identity politics, post modernism

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Lawrence, Academic Freedom. University of Colorado Law Review, 2006; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-38. Available at SSRN:

Lawrence Alexander (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-2317 (Phone)
619-260-4728 (Fax)

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