Blogs > Liberty and Power > Organization of American Historians Fumbles on Academic Freedom

Nov 12, 2004 10:41 am

Organization of American Historians Fumbles on Academic Freedom

My friend has Ralph Luker at Cliopatria has properly condemned the poorly done, incomplete, and one-sided report of the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom. Having read the report, I can attest that he does not exaggerate in his criticism.

For the full report, see here. The Committee does not even allude to politically correct suppression of free speech through speech codes. It makes much of the Patriot Act. While I oppose the Patriot Act, and the Committee is right to criticize it, I know of very few examples of faculty members who have been prosecuted under it.

On the other hand, faculty and students are being harassed by speech codes on almost a daily basis throughout the U.S. For numerous examples, see here . I will blog on this later at greater length but, in the meantime, here is what Ralph had to say:

RALPH E. LUKER: The OAH and Free Speech ...

Six months ago, Jim Horton, president of the Organization of American Historians, appointed a committee chaired by Yale's David Montgomery to look into contemporary threats to academic freedom. At the time, Michael Burger in a comment here at Cliopatria, David Beito at Liberty & Power and I urged the committee to look into the degree to which campus speech codes were threats to academic freedom. Blessed with a more irenic temperament than my own, Beito put it well, I thought:"As someone who has not hesitated to use his academic freedom to criticize the war (normally considered a"leftist" cause)," he wrote,"I would urge Montgomery to take this request seriously.

This could be an excellent way to build bridges between conservatives, libertarians, liberals, and socialists and thus be better able to defend academic freedom for everyone. It would also be a wonderful advertisement for Joe and Jill Six Pack about the across-the-board consistency of the OAH."

At least two of the four members of the OAH committee appointed by Horton are long-term professional and personal friends of mine, but I'm afraid that I have to say that the committee made no effort to look at the kinds of concerns that libertarian or conservative historians have expressed about the chilling effect of speech codes on academic freedom. You can read the committee's report here. Despite the fact that both Beito and I contacted David Montgomery in re the question of speech codes, it is obvious that it made no effort to investigate questions other than those which might occur to a historian on the left. It is a huge opportunity missed by the blinders, if I may coin a phrase, of"political correctness." Shame on the OAH and its committee!

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