Does Bigfoot Have Academic Freedom?
The Los Angeles Times reports on an Idaho State University tenured professor, D. Jeffrey Meldrum, who has written a book seeming to endorse the existence of bigfoot: "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science." It's based on a Discovery Channel series, and published by a science fiction press. 20 colleagues wrote a letter worrying that Idaho State "may be perceived as a university that endorses fringe science over fundamental scientific perspectives that have withstood critical inquiry." There might be a danger of a threat to academic freedom here, if Meldrum is punished for having written this book, apart from his other work. But faculty must be free to condemn their colleagues, and free to dismiss dubious work as worthless. However, I worry that too much value is placed on the "reputation" of a university that might be endangered by controversial words from a professor, since the reputation can be damaged by fully protected speech.