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FREE INQUIRY AT RISK: Universities in Dangerous Times, Part I / Vol. 76, No. 2 (Summer 2009)

Arien Mack, Editor

This article introduces the articles and themes presented in this edition of the journal. The edition consists of papers presented at the 19th Social Research Conference, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the formation of the University in Exile at the New School for Social Research. The article "Reflections on the New School’s Founding Moments, 1919 and 1933," by Ira Katznelson served as the opening address. Issues regarding free inquiry, institutional autonomy, and academic freedom are examined.


This essay discusses the founding of the progressive New School for Social Research in 1919 in New York City. Particular attention is paid to the formation of the University in Exile in 1933 as a graduate division of the New School for Social Research as an academic haven for scholars dismissed from totalitarian regimes in Europe. The reputation and intellectual ambition of the school's evolving philosophy is assessed.


This article introduces a section of the journal presenting essays discussing the meaning and history of academic freedom. The issues surrounding free inquiry, university autonomy, and academic freedom are addressed in articles such as "The Uses of the University," by Clark Kerr and "The Idea of the University," by Frank Turner.

No matter which stand is taken on the marginal question as to whether academic freedom is a special case of the constitutional right to free speech or something special and apart, there is a great and recurring tendency in the literature on the subject to appeal to the same arguments and metaphors and intuitions to describe the justifications for academic freedoms along roughly the following lines. First, there is a statement of purpose or goal and second, there is a statement of the conditions for the possibility of the pursuit of that goal.

An essay is presented discussing the evolution of the idea of academic freedom as a "canonical value" within higher education. Particular attention is paid to the process by which broad segments of society have come to accept and support the principle of free inquiry and due process in academia. The persecution of outspoken professors by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s is compared to treatment of their counterparts in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

An essay is presented examining the tensions inherent in the concept of academic freedom as a theory of academic faculty rights and as a practice designed to defend them. The objective of academic freedom to resolve conflicts about the relationships between power and knowledge, politics and truth, and action and thought, is discussed. The doctrine of academic freedom as posited by the 1915 "Declaration of Principles" issued by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is assessed.

An essay examines the idea of academic freedom within the context of rapid worldwide growth in the number of people participating in higher education in emerging economies and developing countries. Particular attention is paid to links between higher education rates and economic growth in the global North, South Korea, and Brazil. The social pressure for increased access to higher education as a result of democratization and the association of academic success with upward mobility is addressed.


This article introduces three essays discussing the concept of free inquiry and the difficult conditions under which the right to intellectual freedom is often challenged. The essays include "Subversives, Squeaky Wheels, and Special Obligations: Threats to Academic Freedom, 1890-1960," by Ellen W. Schrecker, "Academic Freedom under Political Duress: Israel," by Itzhak Galnoor, and "Academic Freedom: Public Knowledge and the Structural Transformation of the University" by Craig Calhoun.

This article discusses threats to academic freedom in the U.S. between the years 1890 to 1960. Particular attention is paid to recounting the investigations, prosecutions, and dismissal of academic professors based on accusation of association with communist organizations. The case involving the dismissal of social psychologist professor Ralph Gundlach at the University of Washington for his political activities is examined. How universities redefined the professional responsibilities of faculty under the guise of preserving their institutional reputation during times of political repression is discussed. Violations of academic freedom that occurred in the late 1800s are addressed.

The article focuses on political intimidation and academic "commodification" as major threats to academic freedom in Israel. A brief history of the background of the organization called the Israeli Higher Education Institutions (HEI) is provided. Particular attention is paid to the actions of extreme nationalistic and religious groups seeking to intimidate and silence "non-loyal" voices inside and outside the university system. The process of "commodification" through political-administrative pressure on HEI and the enforcement of privatization policies are examined. The resulting moral and financial crisis in Israeli higher education is assessed.

An essay discusses the idea of academic freedom as it pertains to the structural transformation of the modern university and shifting perceptions of the value of public knowledge, intellectual discovery, and freedom of expression. The history of the New School for Social Research is used to trace the need to be vigilant against the various means of intellectual repression and the undermining of democracy. Individual academic freedoms and the public mission of modern universities are analyzed.


An essay assesses the lack of free inquiry among academics in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as a fundamental failure to provide developing societies an opportunity to generate and make use of ideas to further the public welfare. The decline in gross domestic product, investment rates, and poor growth performance in SSA since the 1970s is linked to the lack of black-owned businesses and a focus on foreign investment. The trend is associated with a significant lack of economic and intellectual freedom.

The article presents an assessment of the state of academic freedom in Zimbabwe and the implementation of legislation designed to limit free inquiry and academic space. Particular attention is paid to the passing of the Public Order and Security Act which makes it illegal to organize an academic conference, workshop, seminar, or conduct field research. Professors and research assistants are said to be tortured, harassed, and killed for attempting to collect data. The impact of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act on the scope of academic freedom in Zimbabwe through restrictions on the flow of information is discussed.

The article discusses the state of academic freedom in Belarus. It is suggested that academic freedom in Belarus is restricted and violated and is not part of the shared values of Belarusan educators and academics. The highly centralized nature of the Belarusan educational system under the Ministry of Education is examined. Professors are expected to follow all official requirements of course material and free expression of opinion is extremely limited in the classroom. Conflicts can result in dismissal, since no professors in Belarus have tenure. How the absence of access to information breeds intellectual isolation among the academic community in an era of globalization is discussed.

The article presents a first person narrative from a law professor at Peking University who participated in the founding of the Liberal and Democratic Party of China in which he describes his arrest in 1992 and life after his release from prison in 1997.


The essays in this section all place the issue of academic freedom and free inquiry more generally in the context of the rapid, social, economic, and political changes. In South Africa, China, Russia, and the countries of Eastern Europe, the last two decades of the 20th century inaugurated dramatic shifts in the governance of markets, political institutions, and citizens.

The article compares the state of free inquiry and academic freedom in pre-apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. It is argued that threats to free inquiry have not disappeared in the post-apartheid era, but have merely transformed in less obvious ways through internal and external sources. The failure of state programs aimed at equalizing access to higher education and widening participation rates is discussed. The unintended consequence of institutional initiatives attempting to restructure the education system are assessed. The erosion of intellectual freedom and academic rule and the rise of managerialism in the university system are examined.

The article discusses the historic role of public intellectuals as the conscience of society in China and the treatment of those who have openly criticized communist party policy in the post-Mao era. It is argued that intellectuals remain under Chinese Communist Party control and that there are still no laws to protect political and civil rights. The continued contraction of public space for political discourse under the 4th generation of state leaders who came to power in 2002 is examined. The ability of intellectuals who have lost their jobs in academia to find employment and outlets for their political views within China's expanding market economy is assessed.

A first person account from a political scientist is presented describing the challenges facing the creation of the Central European University in the first years of the post-communist era following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The article analyzes the history, function, and evolution of research universities in Russia in the post-communist era. The author provides insight into the structure and incentives in Russian universities based on his work as an administrator and educator at the New Economic School in Russia and as the director of the school's Outreach Program. The Soviet tradition of keeping teaching and research separate in research institution is compared to the deregulation and commercialization of the higher education system in the post-soviet era. The challenge of reforming existing research universities is examined.


This article presents a panel discussion among academic leaders regarding free inquiry and academic freedom held at the 19th Social Research Conference, which was funded by the New School University. The discussion includes questions and responses from Robert M. Berdahl, Hanna Holborn Gray, Bob Kerrey, Anthony Marx, Chalres M. Vest, and Joseph Westphal. Berkahl offers commentary on his experience with the free speech movement at the University of California at Berkeley. Westphal stresses the need for international education.


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