Why Academic Freedom Matters

By Caleb Taylor

ACRE scholars and UCA faculty, Dr. Zack Donohew, Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl, Dr. Tom Snyder and ACRE Director David “Mitch” Mitchell discussed the importance of academic freedom and the challenges it faces across the nation in an op-ed published February 26th in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

In the op-ed, they list examples of attacks on academic freedom such as 29 “disinvitations” of campus speakers in 2017, limits on professorial speech at Yale University and Evergreen State College, and a proposed change to tenure policy at the University of Arkansas system.

From the op-ed:

“The right to research and speak about controversial ideas is the core of the ideal of a university. Without academic freedom for faculty and students, a university could be a vocational school, a year-round camp, or an athletics training facility. But it’s much more. Universities must push the boundaries of science, our understanding of human nature, and public policy. If not us, who?”


The authors contrast this nationwide trend that “could have a chilling effect on academic freedom” with the current climate at the University of Central Arkansas where “academic freedom remains alive and well.”

From the op-ed:

“UCA’s faculty handbook affirms the protection of academic freedom, and states that it is “fundamental to the advancement of truth.” And the diversity of organizations and views on campus show this commitment to academic freedom by President Davis, former President Tom Courtway, and the board of UCA. The Center for Community and Economic Development; the Corrections, Culture, and Career Lab; the Confucius Institute; ACRE; and other university centers hold a myriad of different and sometimes opposing viewpoints. This should be celebrated, not silenced.

No one wants to be wrong, especially about things that are important to them, but we are all wrong about some things. The only way to discover our own errors and to educate others is by making the strongest, clearest cases we can for the things we believe and hoping that others will help us to see what we have missed.”

You can read the full op-ed, Free to Speak, here.