Last week, professors, lecturers and academics across the country began signing the “Stanford Academic Freedom Declaration.” It is an open letter that calls on universities to restore free speech, academic freedom and institutional neutrality. The open letter asks universities and professors to adopt and implement the “Chicago Trifecta” — the Chicago Principles on unilateral free speech, the Kalven report that requires institutional neutrality on political and social topics, and the Shils report, making “academic contribution the sole basis for hiring and promotion.” It is picking up metaphorical steam: several hundred new signatures have been entered since I first saw the document last night. One of them is mine: I qualify as a former adjunct professor of legal ethics.
Stanford economist and co-author John Cochrane is the first name on the list and presumably launched the letter. He told College Fix:
The larger hope is to bring back academic freedom on campus and in the academic enterprise more generally. Only with robust academic freedom, the ability to investigate ideas and bring out uncomfortable facts, does scholarship bring about new and reliable knowledge, especially on crucial issues to our society.
Who knows if this will have any impact or persuasive power? I am dubious about the use of such protest tools, but at least this one causes no harm even if it like the lonely tree falling in a forest. Trying to ensure that the letter has no effect is, of course, the mainstream media, which so far, at least, hasn’t deemed the effort newsworthy for a week. In the meantime, several news sources have devoted space to the fact that in China, a massive flock of sheep has been walking in a circle for 12 days straight. Priorities!
I’m grateful for the opportunity to do something proactive about this problem, which I view as an existential threat to American culture and society. Boycotting the recent class reunions of my college and law school was mandatory for me but also the equivalent of Grandpa Simpson shouting at clouds. My Harvard reunion book essay explaining my position did attract a few kudos in the mail, all of which opined that there were many other class members who felt as I do but were afraid to make their views public.
Wow. Harvard apparently has graduated a lot of weenies. But I knew that.
I’ll be circulating the letter to my friends and associates who can sign it. It’s awfully open, which mean that if someone wanted to muck it up with fake names, gag names and other graffiti, they could. Right now, I’m the last name on the list, number 1,241. It will take about a hundred times that to make a ripple, I know.
It’s worth a shot.