the Village to Save It
Freedom is Part of a
Larger First Amendment Issue
All Americans … need to watch what they say.
This is not a time for remarks like that.”
The speaker is White House press secretary
Ari Fleischer, shortly after “Politically Incorrect with Bill
Maher” was de facto censored when its television underwriters
withdrew their support.
Not long after, an editor on the Texas
City Sun wrote an opinion piece critical of George W.
Bush. The next day, the Sun’s publisher issued a front-page
apology and fired him.
“People don’t want to hear that stuff now,”
said Jonah Goldberg, an editor at National Review,
whose column runs regularly in the Allentown Morning Call
and the Express-Times.
And earlier this month in the Chronicle
of Higher Education, an article called “Testing Free Speech”
notes that some colleges have reacted to September 11 with
blood drives and candlelight vigils—and “stunning intolerance”
on the campuses of the University of Texas, California State
University at Chico, the University of New Mexico, St. Olaf
College (Minn.), Orange Coast College (Calif.) and Henry Ford
Community College (Mich.). Reprisals against professors who
criticized or otherwise countered prevailing opinion have
ranged from reprimands and heckling to, in the last case,
“suspension with pay,” though it must be added that this professor
physically ejected a student from class when the discussion
turned into what the Chronicle describes as a “sparring
As many in the Moravian College family are
aware, faculty members have spoken their minds about the events
of September 11 in several forums, and negative responses
have not been slow in coming. But in a letter to the College
community, Curtis A. Keim, dean of the faculty, not only upheld
the principle of academic freedom but also defended its greater
necessity in a time of conflict.
Academic freedom, a specific reading of the
freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment, is but one
of the civil liberties under pressure, and sometimes actual
attack, in the aftermath of last months terrorism. The
last time it was of such concern was during the McCarthy hearings
of 1950-54. But the issue goes back long before that, to a
1940 statement of principles by the American Association
of University Professors, which reaffirmed a resolution adopted
in 1925. To read it in its entirety, visit www.aaup.org/1940stat.
In the three-quarters of a century since then,
it has become an article of faith that colleges are, indeed
must be, standard-bearers for open discussion and public discourse.
Dean Keims letter reminded us of the
rights and responsibilities of academic freedom and of the
benefits of informed inquiry (and, yes, informed dissent)
to the common good.
The protected expression of ideas
with which we disagree is fundamental to our collective pursuit
of truth, he wrote. Some unpopular ideas will
eventually become widely understood as truthful, and they
need time and space to develop, endure scrutiny, and gain
support. We should trust that over time untruthful ideas will
fail to withstand rigorous academic consideration.
There are limits on academic
freedom, of course
[It] is granted by society with the
expectation of high standards of inquiry, reasoning, and expression.
[We] must pursue truth rather than self-interest, and this
implies a willingness to listen, to respect others opinions,
and to change ones mind.
Thats the news. Heres the editorial:
Dean Keim wrote: In return for the responsible
pursuit of truth, society grants faculty
degree of freedom of speech than that guaranteed to all citizens
by the Bill of Rights. This is not quite correct. The
language of the First Amendment is unambiguous and inarguable.
As upheld by long legal tradition, the same freedom of expression
is guaranteed to us all, without exception, from the
most venerable professor on the faculty to the janitor who
empties the wastebaskets.
In conjunction with Trustees Week at the College,
trustees Odell Guyton ’77, Candy Barr Heimbach ’79, and Martin
A.Trichon ’70 will join the district attorney of Northampton
County, John M. Morganelli ’77, for a discussion of “Civil
Liberties in Times of Crisis.” It’s at 4:00 p.m. Thursday,
October 25, in Prosser Auditorium.