Mar 31, 2012

Academic freedom

This is the abstract of a short, article (March 2012) by Simon Chesterman who addresses academic freedom in the context of a new collaboration between Yale and The National University of Singapore: 
Academic freedom entails certain rights — but it also comes with responsibilities and requires an understanding of context. The rights generally associated with academic freedom are that teaching and research should be conducted without unreasonable interference or restriction by the law, institutional regulations, or public pressure. The qualification “unreasonable” is important as this is not an absolute right. Academic freedom does not entitle you to experiment on non-consenting human subjects. An academic who falsifies results should expect disciplinary action; one who does not show up for class should not expect to get a promotion or a pay raise. But beyond such clear cases, professors should be free — and encouraged — to pursue the truth wherever it leads. There are many examples of what happens in the absence of such freedom. Think astronomy under the Catholic Church at the time of Galileo, or biology in the Soviet Union. 
He adds: 
Professors, like everyone else, have opinions. But outside of one’s field of research that opinion is no more – and no less – valuable than that of anyone else. 
Students who attend US schools strengthen academic freedom in their countries when they go back. It is like a transmission of the US-university DNA into other places (using the language in The Innovative University).

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