Some newer readers may not know that my interest in the academic world has greatly increased in recent years. When I graduated from Duke too long ago, I was so ready to be through with school. But about twelve years ago, my increased interest in English and church history pushed me into graduate studies, including two stints at Oxford. (Full disclosure: I was a student at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in 2007 and later an independent student, but not enrolled in the University of Oxford itself.)
Energy issues have made my studies a bit sporadic, but now I’m back at it, enrolled at Cranmer House and pursuing a Certificate in Anglican Studies.
Having disclosed all that, the trend in recent years for genuine academic freedom to be suppressed at universities and to be replaced more and more with ideological indoctrination, cheerleaded by certain repugnant breeds of “students”, who deserve not to be called students, but deserve expulsion instead….
Excuse me. I was hyperventilating a bit and need to take a breath or two.
As I was saying, the attacks on academic freedom, particularly on the free exchange of ideas, have concerned me. I fear for the future of even great universities like Oxford, and for what sorts of graduates they will unleash on the world.
So it is heartening to see some pushback on behalf of academic freedom. The University of Chicago’s missive to incoming students is especially heartening:
You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Do read the whole letter. It is wonderful. Every worthy university should send a letter like this to every incoming student and to current students as well.
By the way, if you are a university alumnus, you can do you part for academic freedom. Inform your alma mater that your future financial support depends on their support of academic freedom. Trust me, that can get their attention.
And let us hope and pray that the University of Chicago’s letter is part of the tide turning towards revived academic freedom.