The number of republican, conservative and libertarian faculty members have plummeted at most schools in the last twenty years. Many top law schools have only a couple conservative faculty members and we have discussed the startling increase in attacks on faculty, trustees, and students (including student publications, editors and columnists) over dissenting views on subjects ranging from critical race theory to police abuse. Nevertheless, the American Association of University Professors’ Journal of Academic Freedom is calling for papers on intolerance on campuses but only by conservatives. The call seems to be an effort to come up with a narrative to deflect from the complaints over the rising orthodoxy and intolerance on our campuses.
The AAUP journal is only interested in examples of “thought control by the Right, the whitewashing of historical narratives, and specific assaults on academic freedom that cut across the K–12 and higher education sectors.” It bases this one-sided solicitation on the “recent upsurge in white ethnonationalism” and “attempt[s] to reenergize white-settler narratives of the nation’s founding while vilifying histories that call attention to slavery, oppression, and dispossession.” They also cite criticism of the 1619 project and the recent controversy over the hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones, who have pushed for advocacy journalism that is opposed by many of us.
Rather than study viewpoint intolerance on campuses generally, the journal is calling only for research that supports a narrative that our schools are actually under the yoke of conservative ideology. It is a bizarre claim that has appeared recently in other academic publications. Recently, a Massachusetts history professor declared universities “right-wing institutions.” I have personally been in meetings where such claims were made about the relative absence of liberal scholars on faculties and dominance of conservative ideology at law schools. I once heard a law dean note with a straight face that she was pleasantly surprised to meet a liberal constitutional law scholar for a change.
We have recently discussed a couple examples (here and here) of actions taken against liberal speakers on campus, which were denounced as attacks on free speech values. However, it borders on the delusional to suggest that our campuses are being controlled by conservative ideology or faculty members. We previously discussed a Gallup poll showing ninety percent of Pomona students said that they did not feel free to speak openly or freely. Pomona is one of the most liberal institutions in the world with a tiny fraction of conservative faculty.
For many of us in the free speech community, it does not matter which side is opposing the expression of viewpoints. I have defended extremist views on academic freedom grounds like those of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who has defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis also writes for the site “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”) I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments “detonating white people,” denouncing police, calling for Republicans to suffer, strangling police officers, celebrating the death of conservatives, calling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements.
The AAUP journal embodies the raw bias that has taken hold on our journals and on our campuses. It is soliciting articles that confirm a view that academic freedom is being threatened by the shrinking numbers of conservative faculty and students in our schools. To secure such opportunities, you must first confirm that you will reach the correct conclusion.
The AAUP was once a staunch defender of academic freedom. As I discuss in an upcoming law review article, the AAUP was heavily influenced by the writings of Roscoe Pound who led the fight for free speech on campuses at a time when it was the conservatives who were failing to actively protect those on the left in raising dissenting voices. He railed against the view that professors should remain silent on public controversies and objected that “we are getting very intolerant in this country of even necessary freedom of speech.” Pound’s view of free speech would be reflected in the first Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom in 1915 by the AAUP. The Declaration stressed the protection of free speech and the guarantee of “unfettered discussion” free of the “prescribed inculcation of a particular opinion upon a controverted question.”