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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues

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Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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Part Three: Is Academic Freedom Still Necessary?

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← 64 | 65 →

Part Three:  Is Academic Freedom Still Necessary?

In “‘Flipping’ the Tenure Debate and the Continuing Need to Protect Academic Freedom,” Neal H. Hutchens and Frank Fernandez discuss the meaning and importance of academic freedom, its dilution in certain institutional structures, and why it should be safeguarded. They worry that the failure to support tenure and academic freedom sabotages intellectual and scientific development—one of the academy’s chief functions. Hutchens and Fernandez also point to political and ideological assaults on higher education that weaken professional autonomy and the search for truth. Thus, they call for stronger protection for nontenured faculty and those in nonfaculty roles as well as for full-time faculty. In modern times, the authors fear that administrative authority has grown too powerful.

In “What Is Academic Freedom for?” Ashley Thorne isolates which forms of academic freedom she claims are legitimate and which should be considered objectionable. On the one hand, she points to the right of professors to teach their subject (so long as they remain within subject bounds) and students’ rights to learn that subject. On the other hand, she argues that academic freedom should not protect indoctrination. Thorne is critical of classroom and published arguments that do not respect reasoned, civil debate; she is also sensitive to the need to listen to other points of view before either accepting or rejection them. Lastly, she searches for more ultimate truth against contemporary philosophies of subjectivism and postmodernism. ← 65 | 66 →

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