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Academic Freedom

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Beren, Mar 4, 2016.

  1. Beren

    Beren Lovesick and Lonely Wanderer Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Few topics are as touchy on a university campus as that of academic freedom.

    One the one hand, the basic idea is nice, to give the professor freedom to conduct research and express opinions, even controversial ones, without fear of reprisals.

    But wow ... some of the things that academic freedom has been invoked to protect, like this recent episode:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ed-Jews-9-11-attacks-grounds-free-speech.html

    On the other hand, the argument could certainly be made that such is the whole point of academic freedom. Freedom to say what you believe without consequence. Another controversial case:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/24/AR2007072402000.html

    So what do you think?
     
  2. Keneth Gems: 28/31
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    I think people should be able to say and think what they want, but academic institutions should not be used as a forum to express those opinions. Schools and universities should obviously have a right to protect their integrity and reputation by disavowing any such research and its author as well as take the necessary steps to prevent such incidents in the future (i.e. fire the employee).

    This holds even more true for countries where academic institutions are not funded by the government and people's very livelihood depends on maintaining a good reputation. Using your tenure as a shield or a way to legitimize your claims is poor form and I don't see why such behavior should be enabled, much less encouraged.
     
  3. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    I think one interesting quote came out of that Oberlin article, which is so true:

    Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz told The Tower: 'If Karega had expressed comparably bigoted views about Blacks, Muslims or gays, the President of Oberlin would not have posted the boilerplate he posted.

    'He would have condemned those views, even if he defended her right to express them.'
     
  4. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    Depends on your definition of freedom. I mean, you may be free from criminal prosecution or job loss, but you will never be free of people thinking you are being an idiot.
     
  5. Keneth Gems: 28/31
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    Silence is golden; Duct tape is silver.
     
  6. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Free speech is one thing, academic freedom is another. Whereas academic freedom does not include the right to be a moron, it requires wider protection than common free speech whenever it comes to such research subjects and research results as are valid in the light of science methodology. Hence, if the controversial academic has enough proof on which to base a viable hypothesis, then however offensive that hypothesis were to liberal sensibilities, it should be left alone. On the other hand, if the academic concerned is acting like an idiot spreading unfounded lies and products of sheer imagination with no support for them, then it shouldn't matter what the conclusions were. Even verifiably true conclusions would be accidental in such a case, and such an academic should be removed for failure to apply the scientific method.

    Bottom line, the method matters, not however offensive or not the conclusions are. People who ignore the method and arrive at inoffensive, even true conclusions, should be kicked out. People who arrive at unpopular conclusions, notably ones that offend political correctness, should be protected.

    Once again, the contents of the conclusions don't matter, the method does. And anybody who doesn't realize this is probably not qualified due to insufficient knowledge/understanding.
     
  7. Keneth Gems: 28/31
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    Unfortunately academic peer review isn't quite what it used to be. You can get all kinds of crap published these days, especially in the more nebulous "science" areas, such as social studies.

    And it only further contributes to the dissemination of misinformation which liberals are all too happy to jump on and even further misconstrue.

    I agree that popular opinions shouldn't factor into academic freedom, but on the other hand, if you've legitimately come to some contentious conclusions or have every intention of testing a hypothesis based on a premise that goes counter to popular opinion, it shouldn't be a problem to gain the backing of your peers and the institution you work for beforehand, rather than using your tenure as a shield after the fact. That's just poor form.
     
  8. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    The problem is, your peers can be liberals who don't care about methods or anything to do with science when popular opinions are at stake.
     
  9. Keneth Gems: 28/31
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    That certainly presents quite the dilemma, but if there's no one to support you to begin with, putting those around you in a position where they have to choose between their standing and yours isn't gonna win you any favors.
     
  10. Beren

    Beren Lovesick and Lonely Wanderer Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I can't count the number of times a peer reviewer trashed my work solely on the basis that the argument disagreed with his / her own. But I always get it published anyway with persistence.
     
  11. damedog Gems: 15/31
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    Any time I hear something about peer-review from those in a position to know they always say the same things about how lackluster it's become. That's concerning, to say the least.
     
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