By now we all have heard about Ward Churchill's statements and the right wing attack machine going shrill over how there are nothing but crazed lefties on college campuses. I have to say that was not the experience of anyone I knew. Conservative correctness was far more common than political correctness.
Yet we need to think about how to address this issue an honest manner. I think that this involves saying something about the role of universities and public discourse in a period of rightwing political reaction.
speech always takes place in a context of power. I would be interested in hearing what others think about how to address the question of free speech and academic freedom. Of course, the role of facts is also an important one that we are overlooking in an era of the manufactured presidency. what does it mean to say
something we know to be untrue. This is one of the official criteria for revoking Ward Churchill's tenure. It seems to me that he is guilty of excessive rhetoric, not false statements of fact. Hell, we all know that most politicians are guilty of both.
But to me the larger and more imporant issue is: Why shouldn't people outside of universities also have academic freedon -- such as the ability to say what we think without reprisal against our jobs?
The trouble with the "academic freedom because the university is a
special place" argument is that it creates a place of special privilege that the rest of us do not have. Furthermore, it is a place that is reserved mainly for relatively wealthy kids plus the faculty.
But everyone needs the freedom to think and to talk out ideas...