Jeremy Willinger is HxA’s Communications Director

Before newly arrived college students finish unpacking their suitcases and setting up their computers, they will have typically experience first-year orientation programs designed to explain how to navigate the campus and its many services. Where first-year orientation programs often fall short are around explaining the values of the university, particularly those related to freedom of speech and inquiry. In a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Roger Bowen, former president of SUNY New Paltz, argues that first-year programs are the perfect time in which to teach “the meaning and purpose of academic freedom.” Bowen recommends the following readings, with explanations from the article, below:

  • John Dewey, “Academic Freedom,” Educational Review 23 (1902): 1-14.
  • “1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure,” AAUP Policy Documents & Reports 10th edition (2006), Appendix I (291-301).
  • “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure” (ibid., 273-79).
  • Keyishian v. Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, 385 U.S. 589 (1967).

Dewey’s article emphasizes that academic freedom “makes its recipients better judges of truth and more effective in applying it to the affairs of life,” not least of which is that fidelity to academic freedom helps shape a citizenry inclined to be engaged in strengthening democracy. The “1915 Declaration” makes the crucial point that college should be an “inviolable refuge” from the tyranny of trustees, politicians, special interests, and public opinion. The “1940 Statement” underscores that the “common good depends upon the free search for truth and its exposition.” And the U.S. Supreme Court case makes explicit that academic freedom is “a special concern of the First Amendment.”

This is an excellent idea that mirrors our motivation for creating the Heterodox Academy Viewpoint Diversity Experience. Initially, we created this resource to use in classrooms though it can also be applied to orientation programs.

Bowen’s ideal outcome is a more open campus climate where students listen to speech with which they disagree and know how to counter arguments with additional speech and reasoned dialogue:

By helping students Students who are exposed to these (and other) readings, and who engage their student orientation instructor in conversation about their implications, will be less likely to don black ski masks in protest against a guest speaker on campus, more likely to challenge their instructors in class, and less likely to blindly adopt a campus orthodoxy (if there is one).

It is a vision we can wholeheartedly support and we urge you to read the entire article online >>


Opinions expressed are those of the author(s). Publication does not imply endorsement by Heterodox Academy or any of its members. We welcome your comments below. Feel free to challenge and disagree, but please try to model the sort of respectful and constructive criticism that makes viewpoint diversity most valuable. Comments that include obscenity or aggression are likely to be deleted.