Thursday, September 15, 2005

FIRE - First Amendment and Academic Freedom Triumph at Brooklyn College

"BROOKLYN, N.Y., September 14, 2005—In a swift and crucial victory for freedom of speech and academic freedom, Brooklyn College has affirmed that prominent professor KC Johnson will not be subjected to an unconstitutional inquisition into his views. The college surrendered mere days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) came to Johnson’s public defense.

Since May of this year, Johnson has been speaking out against the use of “dispositions” theory by Brooklyn College’s School of Education (SOE). Since this theory requires that education students’ commitment to “social justice” be evaluated along with academic performance, Johnson fears its use constitutes an ideological litmus test and invites viewpoint discrimination.

In response to Johnson’s constitutionally protected statements, dozens of SOE professors demanded in a June 20 letter that he cease his “attacks.” Most chillingly, it was also alleged at an “emergency academic freedom meeting” of the faculty union that Johnson would face an official investigation by an “Integrity Committee.”

Johnson never received any notice of such an investigation, nor did the administration confirm or deny its existence. Since he faced a similar secret investigation during a 2002 tenure dispute—and the administration dissolved the student government last fall for passing a resolution it did not like—he was not overly confident that his freedom of speech would be protected.

“Professors certainly have a right to disagree about pedagogy,” noted David French, president of FIRE. “It would have been both illegal and immoral for Brooklyn College to allow KC Johnson to face another official inquisition. Thankfully, this dire outcome has been averted.”"
Wow, basing a student's achievement in her major on her commitment to social justice. I'm kind of disappointed to hear there is a constitutionally protected right to speak out against such a practice. I would like to be able to evaluate my students' commitment to individual liberty, or even to economic efficiency.

Seriously, I'm glad FIRE exists.

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