Thursday, July 31, 2003

The University of California has passed a new academic freedom policy, despite opposition from conservatives such as (
The San Francisco Chronicle has an article today about it (
Here's my response to their article:

To the editor:

The Chronicle’s article about the University of California’s updated academic freedom policy (news, July 31) wrongly gives the impression that the new policy would have allowed a course description at Berkeley that discouraged conservatives from attending. Rather, the new policy came in response to demands that the course, about the literature of Palestinian resistance, should have been banned altogether under rules requiring “dispassionate” teaching.

Opponents of the new protections for academic freedom claimed that the old policy, with its obligation to evenly present opposing views, “helped ensure a presentation on the Armenian genocide at UCLA in response to a professor who had claimed it was a myth.”

But an obligation to present opposing views must run both ways: a professor teaching about Armenian genocide or the Nazi holocaust would be obligated to present the views of deniers, not to mention the view that genocide is a good thing. Such a descent into relativism is not an obligation of a good teacher, and the new University of California policy reflects the trust placed in the professional character of professors.

Giving freedom to teachers always contains the danger that this freedom will be abused. But a system of academic freedom is far superior to a university where codes of conduct can be used to micromanage faculty decisions.

John K. Wilson

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