By Glen Martin, for the RU AAUP, Oct. 2012
Books are beginning to appear about the nation-wide conversion of universities away from institutions dedicated to truth and knowledge and into a business model of education. One such book is by Benjamin Ginsberg called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters (2011). Ginsberg chronicles the demise of academic freedom, tenure, and the traditional faculty-driven conception of a quality curriculum and the independent pursuit of truth.
In November, 2012, Radford University received a “yellow light” rating on free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
What this means is that a formal outside review has found RU policies deficient. At the begining of the Spring 2013 semester, no move to change RU policies was apparent on the part of the Radford University administration.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Virginia Constitution, the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But freedom of speech is often not recognized in the one place where it ought to be respected the most: A college campus in the USA.
For centuries, and for generations, unpopular speech has been most protected on college campuses. For instance, a photo of President Teddy Roosevelt (above) shows a speech he gave defending Professor John Bassett on the Duke University campus in 1903. Bassett was about to be fired for saying he thought Booker T. Washington (an African American leader) was the greatest person the South had ever produced except Robert E. Lee.
When the Duke board refused to fire Bassett, Roosevelt said:
“You stand for Academic Freedom, for the right of private judgment, for a duty more incumbent upon the scholar than upon any other man, to tell the truth as he sees it, to claim for himself and to give to others the largest liberty in seeking after the truth.”
It’s been a long time since any similarly strong defense of campus speech has taken place. Today many universities simply refuse to recognize First Amendment rights until they are forced to do so by a court. At Radford University, where this blog originates, avenues for student expression are strictly limited in ways that are obviously unconstitutional. Continue reading