Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Conservative Case for Tenure

Acadame Blog
June 2015

It is often claimed that supporters of academic freedom and tenure, like the AAUP, are simply left-wing or liberal professors seeking to protect their own positions and privilege their own views.  Those of us who know better realize how ridiculous this argument can be, but now, in the wake of Scott Walker’s attack on tenure in the University of Wisconsin system, come two self-described conservative-libertarians who make a strong case for academic freedom and tenure as a necessary protection for faculty members on the Right.   Donald Downs is professor of political science at University of Wisconsin-Madison and John Sharpless is professor of history at Madison as well as a former Republican candidate for Congress.  In a piece published yesterday on they argue that “Scott Walker’s Latest Crusade Will Hurt Conservatives Like Us.”
I don’t agree with everything they write — hardly a surprise given that my own politics lean decidedly in the opposite direction from theirs — but the case they make is compelling and important and should give politicians like Walker pause.  Indeed, many of the examples they offer of threats to free expression and academic freedom have been of great concern to the AAUP as well.  I’m thinking here of the fight against overly restrictive “speech codes” and so-called “trigger warnings.”  The Downs-Sharpless article illustrates well how academic freedom, correctly understood, must protect scholars from all points along the political spectrum.  I encourage you to read the full article, but below are a number of choice excerpts.  Let’s hope the so-called “conservatives” in the Wisconsin Legislature are paying attention.

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