Davis Faculty Association

Academic Freedom Article

A recent case at the University of Wisconsin raises serious legal issues about our rights of free speech as faculty members and the meaning of shared governance. It is worth reading the excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education to understand the importance of the court’s decision. Among other things, the declaration that “in order for a public employee to raise a successful First Amendment claim, he must have spoken in his capacity as a private citizen and not as an employee.”

Professors’ Freedoms Under Assault in the Courts
By Peter Schmidt
From Feb. 27, 2009, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education

Kevin J. Renken learned the limits of his academic freedom the hard way.

As an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Mr. Renken says he felt obliged to speak out about his belief that administrators there were mishandling a National Science Foundation grant to him and several colleagues. When the university subsequently reduced his pay and returned the grant, he sued, alleging illegal retaliation.

Because he is a tenured faculty member, and he viewed the public university’s use of public funds as a matter of clear public interest, Mr. Renken figured his complaints qualified as legally protected free speech.

Not so, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit declared last September, in one of several recent court decisions that have raised doubts about the status of academic freedom at public colleges and universities.

Read the rest at http://chronicle.com/weekly/v55/i25/25a00103.htm

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 5:15 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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