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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
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7 occurrences of Dictionary of the History of Ideas
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Academic freedom is the liberty of thought which is
claimed by teachers and other elements of the educa-
tional community. While the claim to freedom of the
mind has a very long history—it was asserted in ancient
Athens, for example, by Socrates—academic freedom,
as the more specialized concern of the schools, is a
rather modern phenomenon, having been first recog-
nized in some of the universities of Western Europe
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Emerging
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the university
in the medieval age was to a considerable extent an
autonomous corporate institution, but the master or
teacher was subject to powerful restraints, both internal
and external, and to the inhibiting force of authori-
tative tradition. Beginning with the founding of the
university at Leiden in 1575, academic freedom began


to take root in the Western world, albeit very slowly,
as a consequence of the gradual development of an
atmosphere of tolerance nurtured by the rise of reli-
gious, political, and economic liberalism, and the
growth of the so-called new sciences. Francis Bacon's
Advancement of Learning (1605) proclaimed the phil-
osophical underpinning of the case for freedom of
experimental inquiry with respect to the new sciences.
The fierce, destructive, sectarian religious and political
conflicts which characterized the struggle between the
Reformation and the Counter-Reformation led a deci-
mated and exhausted Western Europe to comprehend
the values of toleration. The steady growth of com-
merce, which, among other things, drew attention to
the desirable consequences of competitive enterprise,
together with the rise of the liberal state, led to the
emergence of a philosophy of knowledge which
stressed the basic contingency of ideas, and the utility
of testing the value of ideas, not in terms of the power
of those who espoused them, but rather in terms of
their capacity to stand up under the competition of
other ideas. There was a logical transition from the
competition of the marketplace to the competition of

While academic freedom has by no means achieved
universal acceptance in the contemporary world, it is
accepted as the normal expectation in most countries
of Western Europe, with the exception of the dictator-
ships on the Iberian peninsula. It is not accepted by
the communist or communist-dominated countries in
Central and Eastern Europe and in Asia. It is significant
that academic freedom is regarded, at least in princi-
ple, as a necessary and desirable aspect of higher edu-
cation in many of the developing countries of Africa,
the Middle East, and the Far East. In the many coun-
tries where academic freedom is understood and re-
spected, however, there are two uses of the term which,
if not fundamentally different, seem to differ in their
points of emphasis. Thus, in Great Britain the term
generally refers to the freedom of the educational
institution as a whole from outside influences, political
or otherwise.

While this usage of the term is by no means unknown
in the United States, in America it almost invariably
refers to the freedom of the individual professor. Of
course, outside influences are often brought to bear
upon American colleges and universities, and the con-
cept of academic freedom requires the institution to
resist any attacks upon its freedom to act as a corporate
body. Nevertheless, in accordance with the individ-
ualistic tendency of the concept of rights in American
constitutional law, the claim to academic freedom is
generally stated and tested in terms of individual
teachers. Whatever may be the force of outside influ
ences, the concept holds that the institution has an
obligation to protect the rights of academic freedom
for all of its faculty members. Since the ultimate power
of control over an American college or university is
vested in its governing board, a dismissal in violation
of a professor's academic freedom simply cannot hap-
pen unless the board decrees it. It follows that in the
American system of higher education, responsibility for
protecting the academic freedom of teachers rests with
those who are legally in control of the institution, and
who have the power not only to condone violations
of that freedom, for example, by making improper
dismissals, but also the power to protect the faculty
against outside pressures and to defend their freedom.
American experience indicates that even though a
university may enjoy complete institutional autonomy,
so far as external pressures are concerned, it is still
possible for the university's administration to act in
a manner which is injurious to the faculty's claim to
academic freedom.


Academic freedom is usually described as the right
of each individual member of the faculty of an institu-
tion to enjoy the freedom to study, to inquire, to speak
his mind, to communicate his ideas, and to assert the
truth as he sees it. In the United States, the professor's
academic freedom is often defined in terms of full
freedom in research and in the publication of the
results, in classroom discussion of his subject, and in
the exercise extra-murally of his basic rights as a citi-
zen. But in America, and increasingly in other parts
of the world, the concept of academic freedom has
been broadened to include students as well as teachers.
The freedom of the professor to teach is merely one
side of the coin of academic freedom, the other side
being the freedom of the student to learn.

In the historical sense this concept is neither very
novel nor particularly American. It was a familiar point
in the great days of German higher education, during
the half century preceding World War I, that a close
affinity between Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit was rec-
ognized, though for the student the freedom to learn
assumed characteristics not generally to be found in
other countries. Once he had received the abitur (an
examination taken at age 19 or 20, at the end of the
gymnasium period), he was free to wander from school
to school, to attend classes as he chose, and to take
examinations whenever he felt prepared, and to try
again if he failed. Otherwise he was never given grades
and the flunk-out for unsatisfactory scholarship was
unknown. This sort of student freedom was not widely
practiced or recognized in other countries.

By the third quarter of the twentieth century, uni-


versity students in the United States, and indeed all
other elements of the university community, became
more and more interested in those aspects of academic
freedom which are of immediate concern to students.
Various student associations began to draft statements
of specific rights which they thought they were entitled
to claim as against interference by college and univer-
sity authorities. Civil liberties organizations and pro-
fessorial groups also became active in this effort to spell
out the academic freedom rights of the students. This
activity produced, in 1967, a Joint Statement on Rights
and Freedoms of Students,
drafted by a joint committee
made up of representatives of the American Associa-
tion of University Professors, the U. S. National Student
Association, the Association of American Colleges, the
National Association of Student Personnel Adminis-
trators, and the National Association of Women Deans
and Counselors. Other educational associations have
endorsed the Statement since its formulation, and thus
it is rapidly acquiring standing as an authoritative
statement of desirable normative principles.

The Statement points out that “freedom to teach and
freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic
freedom.” It is noted that since “free inquiry and free
expression are indispensable to the attainment” of the
goals of academic institutions—which are: “the trans-
mission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the devel-
opment of students, and the general well-being of
society”—“students should be encouraged to develop
the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in
a sustained and independent search for truth.” To this
end, the Statement spells out the rights of students as
regards institutional admission policies, in the class-
room, in respect to student records, student affairs, and
off-campus activities. In the area of student affairs,
various standards are stated with respect to freedom
of association, freedom of inquiry and expression, par-
ticipation in institutional government, and student
publications. A detailed final section seeks to delineate,
with considerable particularity, procedural standards
in disciplinary proceedings, to the end that students
may enjoy a full measure of due process.


The fundamental case for academic freedom has
always been that while it confers desired benefits upon
the professors who enjoy it, it is defensible mainly on
the ground that the unhampered search for the truth
is for the benefit of society as a whole. A basic premiss
is that final truth in all branches of human knowledge
has not yet been achieved, and that new truths will
emerge only as ideas clash with ideas in an unrestricted
marketplace of ideas. In the words of Cardinal New-
man (1872), a true university or college is a place “in
which the intellect may safely range and speculate,
sure to find its equal in some antagonistic activity, and
its judge in the tribunal of truth. It is a place where
inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and
perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error
exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and
knowledge with knowledge” (“What is a University?,”
Historical Sketches [1872], I, 16). Thus it has been
asserted that academic freedom exists “in order that
society may have the benefit of honest judgment and
independent criticism which otherwise might be with-
held because of fear of offending a dominant group
or transient social attitude” (Clark Byse and Louis
Joughin, Tenure in American Higher Education [1959],
p. 4).

The eminent scholars (including the distinguished
historian of ideas, Arthur O. Lovejoy) who founded the
American Association of University Professors in 1915
published a Declaration of Principles which stated the
rationale for academic freedom that has been generally
accepted by the American academic community. They
pointed out that while professors are the appointees
of the university's trustees, they are not in any proper
sense the trustees' employees, just as federal judges are
appointed by the President without becoming, as a
consequence, the Chief Executive's employees. “For,
once appointed,” they declared, “the scholar has pro-
fessional functions to perform in which the appointing
authorities have neither competency nor moral right
to intervene.” And they added: “A university is a great
and indispensable organ of the higher life of a civilized
community, in the work of which the trustees hold an
essential and highly honorable place, but in which the
faculties hold an independent place, with quite equal
responsibilities—and in relation to purely scientific and
educational questions, the primary responsibility.”
Stressing the nature of the academic calling, they wrote
that “if education is the cornerstone of the structure
of society, and if progress in scientific knowledge is
essential to civilization, few things can be more impor-
tant than to enhance the dignity of the scholar's pro-
fession, with a view to attracting to its ranks men of
the highest ability, of sound learning, and of strong
and independent character.”

A similar conception of the nature of academic
freedom has, in recent years, been adopted by the
United States Supreme Court. Speaking for the Court
in 1957, Chief Justice Warren declared:

The essentiality of freedom in the community of American
universities is almost self-evident. No one should underes-
timate the vital role in a democracy that is played by those
who guide and train our youth. To impose any strait jacket
upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities
would imperil the future of our Nation. No field of education


is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries
cannot yet be made. Particularly is that true in the social
sciences, where few, if any, principles are accepted as
absolutes. Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of
suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always
remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain
new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization
will stagnate and die

(Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S.
234, 250).

Similarly, in a concurring opinion filed in this case,
Justice Frankfurter wrote:

These pages need not be burdened with proof, based on
the testimony of a cloud of impressive witnesses, of the
dependence of a free society on free universities. This means
the exclusion of governmental intervention in the intellec-
tual life of a university. It matters little whether such
intervention occurs avowedly or through action that in-
evitably tends to check the ardor and fearlessness of
scholars, qualities at once so fragile and so indispensable
for fruitful academic labor

(ibid., 354 U.S. 262).

More recently, again speaking for the Supreme
Court, Justice Brennan observed:

Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic
freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and
not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is
therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which
does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over
the classroom. “The vigilant protection of constitutional
freedom is nowhere more vital than in the community of
American schools.”... The classroom is peculiarly the
“marketplace of ideas.” The Nation's future depends upon
leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust ex-
change of ideas which discovers truth “out of a multitude
of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative

(Keyishian v. Board of Regents of New York, 385
U.S. 589, 603 [1967]).

Thus, by the late 1960's, the concept of academic
freedom had been accepted by the United States Su-
preme Court as an integral part of the civil liberties
law of the country. This concept was by then also
regarded by the academic community as an essential
element of the American system of intellectual free-
dom. It was widely believed that the schools play an
indispensable role in the progress of civilization, that
the colleges and universities were the country's most
important instruments for the generation and testing
of new ideas and the advancement of scientific knowl-
edge, and for the training of new leadership in govern-
ment, in the professions, and in the economy. Since
leaders in a rapidly changing world should not be slaves
to routine, but must, on the contrary, be able to take
the initiative, handle new ideas, solve new problems,
evaluate evidence, think rationally, and act purpose-
fully, it was felt that only a free educational system
can produce such leadership. In a broader sense, it was
widely understood that in a fluid, open, democratic
society, in which the legally protected right to dissent
inevitably creates an atmosphere of controversy, the
schools cannot insulate their students from controversy,
since this would leave them unprepared to take their
rightful places in a society in which controversy is a
daily and indispensable condition. Furthermore, a
democratic, self-governing society cannot afford the
risk of having an ignorant and unenlightened citizenry.
Self-government means that the citizen must be able
to govern himself, that is to say, to control his emotions,
to use his reason, and to be concerned with the public
interest. To this end the schools, functioning in an
atmosphere of academic freedom, make a weighty
contribution. It follows that the freedom of teachers
to teach and of students to learn is essential to democ-
racy, to progress, to the security of a way of life com-
mitted to the maximizing of human freedom.


The world over, wherever the principle of academic
freedom has been understood and respected, it has been
closely tied to the concept of tenure, since security
of employment is an essential precondition for the
unhampered exercise of academic freedom. While
there are variations on the general theme, the concept
of tenure which has taken root in the United States
comes to this: after a teacher has served on a faculty
for a limited, prescribed number of years in proba-
tionary status, he acquires a permanent position.

The American Association of University Professors
has sought, during the past half century, to standardize
the maximum duration of the probationary period. The
influential 1940 Statement of Principles, which it nego-
tiated with the Association of American Colleges, and
which has been endorsed by over sixty learned societies
since its adoption, prescribed that the maximum dura-
tion of the probationary period should be seven years.
That is to say, after a teacher has served on a faculty
for seven years in probationary status, the institution
has an obligation to make up its mind whether to let
him go or keep him permanently by granting him
tenure. Tenure means that the teacher, having been
found adequate by the institution during the proba-
tionary period, is now entitled to hold his position until
retirement. It is recognized, however, that the concept
does not mean that a tenured professor can never be
dismissed under any conceivable circumstances. On the
contrary, it is agreed that the institution has a right
to dismiss a tenured professor, but only if there is
adequate cause for the dismissal, and only if adequate
cause is established by procedures which satisfy the
rigorous demands of due process. In addition, it is


recognized that an institution may find it necessary to
terminate a continuous appointment because of finan-
cial exigency—though it is insisted, in the 1940 State-
that such financial exigency “should be demon-
strably bona fide.”

The essence of the tenure concept, then, is the rec-
ognition of the right to serve until retirement, unless
there is an earlier dismissal for an adequate reason
established through procedures which measure up to
the requirements of justice by assuring the individual
concerned the protection of due process. This means
that before the administration of an institution makes
an unfavorable recommendation to the governing
board, the faculty member must be given a statement
of specific charges, served upon him long enough in
advance so that he has adequate time to prepare his
defense. Following the service of charges, he is entitled
to be heard, in the first instance, by a faculty commit-
tee, preferably an elected committee not directly con-
trolled by the administration. Due process also assures
the individual all of the elements of a fair hearing, such
as the right to be heard in his own defense, the right
to counsel, the right to offer witnesses and to confront
and cross-examine witnesses who appear against him,
and a right to a stenographic record of all hearings.
Due process also demands that findings of fact and the
ultimate decision should be based on the hearing rec-

In addition, the burden of proof to establish the
existence of adequate cause for a dismissal is on those
who brought the charges, since the grant of tenure
establishes a presumption of competence comparable
to the presumption of innocence which defendants
enjoy in criminal cases. If the faculty hearing commit-
tee decides in favor of the involved faculty member,
the normal expectation is that the charges will be
dropped. If the administration persists in bringing the
charges to the governing body for final action, then
that body is expected to give the individual a hearing
embracing all of the basic elements of due process.
When a faculty committee has made a decision favora-
ble to the individual, then an especially heavy burden
of proof rests upon those who persist in pressing the

Thus, the real protection for the tenured professor,
so far as dismissal is concerned, depends far more upon
the procedures available to him, than upon any sub-
stantive definition of the term academic freedom. Fur-
thermore, while the rules of academic due process seek
to protect the professor against injustice, they also
protect the institution and its administration from act-
ing unjustly and making mistakes. Speaking in the
wider context of governmental action, Justice Jackson
urged that it should not be overlooked that “due proc
ess of law is not for the sole benefit of an accused.
It is the best insurance for the Government itself
against those blunders which leave lasting stains on a
system of justice but which are bound to occur on ex
parte consideration” (Shaughnessy v. United States ex
rel. Mezei,
345 U.S. 206, 224-25 [1953], dissenting
opinion). When a professor is dismissed arbitrarily,
without charges and a chance to be heard in a fair
proceeding, not only is the professor treated wrongly,
but the institution deprives itself of the benefits and
guidance which would be secured by following proper
procedures. An arbitrary dismissal also prevents the
academic community from having confidence in the
institution's course of action, since there are bound to
be doubts about the acceptability of administrative
decisions which were taken with faulty procedure. Due
process is regarded as vital for the academic commu-
nity, as it is in the general community, because it is
society's best assurance that the action was taken justly.


In the United States there are a number of associa-
tions concerned with defining and defending the pro-
fessor's claim to academic freedom, such as the Ameri-
can Civil Liberties Union, various teachers' unions, the
American Association for Higher Education (an affiliate
of the National Educational Association), and many
other groups. Since its establishment in 1915, however,
the chief spokesman for the academic freedom rights
of teachers in the world of higher education has been
the American Association of University Professors.
Over the years the Association has spelled out the
content of academic freedom, both substantive and
procedural, in numerous statements of principles and
has dealt with specific complaints submitted to it by
aggrieved professors. Complaints alleging improper
dismissals are referred to the Association's oldest and
most influential committee, Committee A, on Aca-
demic Freedom and Tenure. During the past half cen-
tury the Committee, with the assistance of professional
staff in the central office in Washington, has dealt with
hundreds of cases, and has developed a large and so-
phisticated body of interpretations and common law
principles which relate to various aspects of academic

Once the General Secretary of the Association has
concluded that there is a prima facie case for believing
that a serious violation of an important principle of
academic freedom and tenure has occurred, he ap-
points an investigating committee of disinterested
scholars. Following its investigation, the ad hoc com-
mittee reports to Committee A, which then decides
whether to accept the report, and whether it should
be published in the quarterly journal of the Association.


Once a year, at the annual delegate meeting of the
Association, Committee A decides whether to recom-
mend for or against censure of the administration con-
cerned. The ultimate weapon of the Association is a
public censure, which is no more, and no less, than
an expression of moral disapproval. Through the in-
strumentality of censure the Association pronounces
its special form of anathema upon the administration
of an institution, declaring that in its informed and
solemn judgment, proper conditions of academic free-
dom do not exist there. This is communicated to the
academic world through the Association's publications,
through the mass media, and through the efforts of
other learned societies.

There is every reason to believe that this weapon
of the Association is very effective, even though it does
not go beyond the expression of moral disapproval.
Administrations on censure are removed from the list
by vote of the annual delegate meeting of the Associa-
tion on the recommendation of Committee A. This
occurs when it has been decided that the dereliction
which led to the censure action has been corrected.
Generally this takes the form of changes in the institu-
tion's rules and procedures, and the award to the in-
jured party of some sort of redress.

There are active associations of university teachers
in the other English-speaking countries, notably Great
Britain, Canada, Australia, in the Scandinavian coun-
tries, and rather less effective associations in most of
the other countries of Western Europe. In addition
there is an International Association of University Pro-
fessors and Lecturers, with a part-time Secretary-
General, but this is essentially an association of auton-
omous national bodies, and is limited in activity to the
holding of periodical conferences and seminars.


The concept of academic freedom embraces more
than mere protection against arbitrary dismissals,
though the central purpose of tenure is to protect the
teacher against such dismissals. In fact, professors often
have occasion to complain about many other forms of
mistreatment. The American Association, for example,
has received frequent complaints about denial of salary
increases, or the receipt of increases below the average,
or the assignment of inconvenient hours or unwelcome
courses, and other forms of unwanted action taking the
form and having the purpose of harassment. If profes-
sors are to be free from external restraints in their
pursuit of the truth, they must be as free from harass-
ment as they are from the crippling pressure of the
possibility of summary dismissal. The American Asso-
ciation of University Professors has always taken the
position that the best security against most forms of
harassment is to be found within the machinery of the
institution itself. Thus, an essential element of the
prevailing American conception of academic freedom
is the principle of maximum faculty participation in
the decision-making processes of the institution.
Through faculty meetings, faculty committees, and
other devices of communication, the faculty, it is
believed, can achieve a responsible place in the making
of institutional decisions. For example, institutions are
encouraged to have faculty grievance committees, built
into the official organizational system of the institution,
for the adjustment of complaints.

The whole concept of faculty involvement in insti-
tutional government took a giant step forward in 1966,
when three major groups in American higher educa-
tion, the American Council on Education, the Ameri-
can Association of University Professors, and the As-
sociation of Governing Boards of Universities and
Colleges, reached agreement on a joint Statement on
Government of Colleges and Universities.
This State-
recognizes that college or university government
is the joint responsibility of the various major elements
of the academic community, faculties, administrators,
governing boards, and students, since, it is noted, “the
variety and complexity of the tasks performed by insti-
tutions of higher education produce an inescapable
interdependence” among them. Joint efforts by all
components of the institution are needed for effective
planning and communication, for budgeting, for the
selection of the chief academic officials, and for the
optimum use of facilities. More particularly, the tri-
partite Statement recognizes that the faculty has “pri-
mary responsibility” with respect to curriculum, sub-
ject matter and methods of instruction, research, and
those elements of student life which relate to the edu-
cational process. The faculty determines the require-
ments for the degrees offered in courses, and decides
when and how degree requirements have been met.
It is also recognized that the faculty has primary re-
sponsibility with respect to academic appointments,
reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promo-
tions, the granting of tenure, and dismissals. This re-
sponsibility rests upon the fact that scholars in a par-
ticular field have the chief competence for making
judgments on all these matters of faculty status.

Of course, administrative review and board approval
are part of the complicated procedures which are
involved in making decisions on questions of faculty
status, but faculty judgment on these matters should
normally be decisive, and should not be overruled
except for very compelling reasons, and in accordance
with procedures spelled out in advance with explicit
detail. In addition, it is agreed that the faculty should
be consulted in the selection of department chairmen,


deans and presidents, and in the making of budget
policy. Finally, it is recognized that if faculty partici-
pation is to be meaningful, the institution must have
suitable agencies for participation through regularly
scheduled faculty meetings, representative assemblies,
and faculty committees, of which at least the most
important should be elected directly by the faculty.

The tripartite Statement reflects a dramatic change
in the structure of American colleges and universities,
for in the early days of higher education in America
the faculty was weak and the president of the institu-
tion was in a very commanding position. The historic
position of the American university president was a
powerful one from the very beginning, but changes
have occurred in the course of history, and this has
resulted in significant changes in the distribution of
power within the institution. The basic historic fact
is that in the United States there were college presi-
dents long before there were professionally-trained,
full-time, competent faculties completely committed
to the teaching profession. The earliest teachers in the
American colleges were mainly preachers who taught
part-time, or who taught occasionally as an alternative
to other activities. In contrast, from the very start the
president was a full-time, fully-committed chief officer
of the institution. The colleges were weak, professional
faculties were unknown, and the only person who could
speak for the college, defend it against its enemies in
the community, and secure the necessary support, was
the president. Thus, the president was strong because
the faculty was weak.

The conditions which created the powerful presi-
dent, however, disappeared with the rise of strong,
professionally-competent, full-time faculties, made up
of scholars and teachers, able to insist upon sharing
with the institution's administration the responsibility
for making basic policy decisions. The growing involve-
ment of American professors in the governance of their
institution is a consequence of their professional com-
petence. This is not to suggest that presidents are
unimportant or without power, but in the modern age
the professors have assumed the responsibility of exer-
cising a large portion of the innovative function in
higher education, for the president has become an
extremely busy academic entrepreneur who lacks the
time and energy to be concerned very much or very
often with educational innovation.

The concept of a partnership between adminis-
tration, teaching faculty, and students now dominates
the American education scene. Professors do not regard
themselves as mere employees who can be hired and
fired at will, and the theory and practice of academic
freedom, suitably buttressed by faculty participation
in the governance of the institution, has rendered
wholly untenable the conception of the professor as
a hired hand.

Finally, the modern concept of academic freedom
insists that the professor has a right to exercise all of
the rights of citizenship, including freedom of speech
and freedom of association, and that in exercising these
rights he should be subjected to no institutional inter-
ference or academic penalties. The 1940 Statement
declares that the faculty member, as a citizen, has the
right to speak or write free from institutional censor-
ship or discipline, though attention is called to the
professor's special obligation to be accurate, to exercise
appropriate restraint, to show respect for the opinion
of others, and to make every effort to indicate that
he is not an institutional spokesman. It is widely recog-
nized in the American academic community that a
faculty member, like other citizens, should be free to
engage in political activities so far as he can do so
consistently with his professional obligations as a
teacher and scholar.


The main elements of academic freedom are securely
established in those countries which recognize and
respect the principles of intellectual and political free-
dom. Academic freedom does not exist in dictatorship
countries, or in countries which practice thought-
control. This suggests that while academic freedom has
its own special characteristics, it is invariably part of
a larger pattern of human freedom. Furthermore, just
as the other rights which modern man claims are sub-
ject to the manifold pressures of a complex, problem-
ridden, changing world, so does the right to academic
freedom encounter powerful pressures which weaken
or challenge the concept, and indeed, on some occa-
sions and in some places, threaten its very existence.

Some difficulties result, in the United States, from
the very structure of the system of higher education
which is, in reality, no system at all. There is no na-
tional ministry of education, and the role of the na-
tional government in education at all levels is largely
limited to making and administering financial grants.
For the public institutions the power of control rests
in the fifty state governments, and in the governing
boards created by these governments. For the private
institutions the power of control rests in the boards
of trustees. Some measure of conformity with minimum
general standards is achieved through the several re-
gional accrediting associations, and through the efforts
of national professional associations in specialized
schools and colleges, such as those of law, medicine,
pharmacy, architecture, and journalism. But on the
whole, variety and local control are the central features
of the American system of higher education. While the


spirit of localism may serve to insulate problems, in-
cluding violations of academic freedom, it also encour-
ages a chaotic tendency for the locally autonomous
institution to proceed on an ad hoc basis free from the
restraining influence of centralized standards of per-
formance. The still very considerable administrative
power of the typical American college or university
president, exercised locally in a self-defining sit-
uation, gives a willful or determined man great scope
in which to operate with respect to his institution's

In varying degrees throughout the world, the pro-
fessor's academic freedom is often under pressure from
all sorts of external forces—political parties and fac-
tions, politicians, economic interests, religious groups,
patriotic organizations, racial and national origins
groups, and many others. In most institutions the influ-
ence of alumni and private donors is persistent and
may be very weighty. In many countries, and especially
in the United States, there is a wide-spread, latent
anti-intellectualism in large segments of the population
which, under certain conditions, may contribute to the
outside pressures which challenge or weaken the aca-
demic freedom of the teachers. In a broader sense it
may be noted that, in the nature of their calling, pro-
fessors deal with new ideas, and it is often painful to
work with new ideas in areas where popular values
are deeply entrenched. Furthermore, the remarkable
expansion of the social sciences in recent years has had
the result of involving professors more and more with
public issues on which large segments of the population
are deeply divided. Such issues as those involving war
and peace, labor relations, regulation of the economy,
public ownership, and basic political change are likely
to be highly combustible.

During the period following World War II the out-
standing political fact on a global scale was the pro-
tracted Cold War between the communist and demo-
cratic communities of nations, particularly between the
United States and the Soviet Union. The severe pres-
sures generated by the Cold War exerted a profoundly
disturbing impact upon educational institutions. In the
United States the Cold War led to the imposition of
various forms of loyalty oaths, which many professors
regarded as invidiously insulting to them, to legislative
investigations, and sundry purges. In addition, and
again particularly in the United States, the post-World
War II period witnessed an agonizing conflict over race
relations, and the colleges and universities were deeply
involved in situations growing out of this conflict. In
many institutions the freedom of professors to take
sides in this struggle was sharply challenged, and ad-
ministrative reprisals were by no means unknown.
Many censure actions of the American Association of
University Professors, for example, were by-products
of tensions generated by the race issue.

Finally, all over the world, the decade of the 1960's
was a time of serious student dissatisfaction and unrest.
In many places student dissent ripened into disruption
and violence, and led to stern measures on the part
of institutional administrations and governments. There
were large-scale police actions at such distinguished
institutions as the University of California in Berkeley
and Columbia University in New York, and massive
military intervention against students in such cities as
Paris, Mexico City, and Tokyo. The academic freedom
of the institution as a whole was inevitably drawn into
the maelstrom of issues which large-scale student vio-
lence created.

Like so many other freedoms, academic freedom is
experienced unevenly in the contemporary world. It
is securely established in some countries, and scarcely
exists in others, and in between the extremes it exists
in varying degrees of amplitude and security. Where
academic freedom is well-defined and respected, the
teaching profession understands that the principle pro-
tects the professor against the devastating conse-
quences of arbitrary dismissal. It is recognized that the
teacher can be dismissed only for adequate cause, as
established in a proceeding which measures up to the
requirements of due process, including a hearing before
a tribunal consisting of his academic peers. It is well
understood that the security of the professor depends
not so much upon the substantive definition of what
constitutes adequate cause, as upon the procedures
which are followed. That proper procedure is an in-
dispensable element of justice in the life of the state
is a commonplace observation. Proper procedure is
equally essential if academic freedom is to remain a
viable concept.


The leading history of academic freedom, with special
reference to the United States, is Richard Hofstadter and
Walter P. Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom
in the United States
(New York, 1955). The principal study
of the tenure concept in American higher education is by
Clark Byse and Louis Joughin, Tenure in American Higher
(Ithaca, N.Y., 1959). Louis Joughin, ed., Academic
Freedom and Tenure
(Madison, 1967), contains most of the
basic statements of principles adopted by the American
Association of University Professors, as well as six important
journal articles on the subject of academic freedom and
tenure. Policy statements of the American Civil Liberties
Union on academic freedom and due process are reprinted
in the American Association of University Professors, Bul-
42 (1956), 517-29, 655-61, and 48 (1962), 111-15. The
place of academic freedom in American public law is re-
viewed in a symposium in Law and Contemporary Problems,


28 (1963), 429-671, and in William P. Murphy, “Educational
Freedom in the Courts,” American Association of University
Professors, Bulletin, 49 (1963), 309-27. The philosophy of
academic freedom is reviewed and evaluated in Russell Kirk,
Academic Freedom; An Essay in Definition (Chicago, 1955),
and in Robert M. MacIver, Academic Freedom in Our Time
(New York, 1955). Specific academic freedom cases are
reported on in almost every issue of the Bulletin of the
American Association of University Professors.


[See also Democracy; Economic Theory of Natural Liberty;
Education; Freedom; Law, Due Process in; Loyalty; Protest
Religious Toleration.]