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Academic Freedom at Stanford — commentary

Summary:
This is a follow up to a post on the Stanford faculty petition on free speech. I place my comments here, in a separate post. I want to be super-clear that the signatories signed the letter of the last post, and endorse nothing else. What does it say? Free speech, free inquiry, academic freedom. Period. Not ...

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This is a follow up to a post on the Stanford faculty petition on free speech. I place my comments here, in a separate post. I want to be super-clear that the signatories signed the letter of the last post, and endorse nothing else. 

What does it say? Free speech, free inquiry, academic freedom. Period. Not free speech so long as nobody feels hurt. Not free speech so long as you don't disagree with or are viewed as not fully supporting Stanford's policy on Diversity,  Equity, and Inclusion. Not free speech except if you disagree with Stanford's or the County of Santa Clara's covid policies, or Stanford's "sustainability" principles. Not free speech, but limited to your domain of academic expertise, determined by some bureaucratic process. There are other faculty groups and committees working on all these "free-speech but" policies. This group endorsed free speech, period.  

The Stanford Faculty senate has commissioned a report on speech and academic expression, chaired by Professor David Palumbo-Liu. Websitetwitter. Since Professor Palumbo-Liu was a main organizer of the move to censure Scott Atlas for his... well, speech, regarding covid policy, and to remove Hoover from the Stanford campus for... well, speech on policy issues (the presentation to the faculty senate cited in particular my blog post on Stanford's "school of sustainability" as an example of impermissible speech), it will be interesting to see what happens next.  As an example, here is a classic of his tweets
Academic Freedom at Stanford -- commentary
The report will be delivered to the Faculty Senate  Nov 18.  I'm not holding my breath that it will simply endorse Chicago principles.  

Why post? There is a national movement of faculty who care about academic freedom and expression. Kudos to our colleagues at MIT who wrote a free speech letter in the wake of the Dorian Abbott affair. You are not alone.  There are voices, from all over the political spectrum, who still believe in unfettered free speech and academic freedom 

An important issue came up in this process. Why the Chicago principles? Why not tweak them for local conditions, or particular issues? Indeed, what's bubbling up at Stanford are all sorts of modified free speech policies. 

The advantage of the Chicago principles, and next the Kalven Report principles that universities should not weigh in on political matters, is that there is one clean text.  80 others have signed as is. It's much cleaner to join a single unambiguous movement than everybody writes their own version. A statement of principles in a petition should, like the 1st amendment to the Constitution, be short, sweet, and universal, and state the minimum core that we can all agree on. 


John H. Cochrane
In real life I'm a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. I was formerly a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I'm also an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. I'm not really grumpy by the way!

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