APA Issues Statement on Academic Freedom in Florida


Academic freedom and shared governance in institutions of higher learning must remain free from political intrusion. Political restrictions on teaching and scholarship undermine the ability of philosophers and other university researchers to search for and disseminate knowledge. This compromises the fundamental mission of the university.

That is from a statement from the American Philosophical Association (APA), which it issued earlier today in response to moves by Florida governor Ron DeSantis to intervene in the operations of New College, a public liberal arts college.

Here’s the statement in full:

The American Philosophical Association (APA) Board of Officers applauds and endorses the AAUP’s actions in response to “hostile actions affecting academic freedom and faculty governance in Florida’s public higher education institutions.” The AAUP states,

AAUP-supported principles on academic freedom and shared governance, which have been widely adopted by the academic community, insist that institutions of higher learning remain free from political intrusion. In a democratic society, political restrictions on teaching and scholarship cannot be countenanced if institutions of higher learning are to contribute to the common good.

The mission statement of the APA states that the purpose of the association is to “promote the discipline and profession of philosophy.” In 1994, the APA first adopted the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Statement on Professional Ethics. The APA reaffirms its commitment to the AAUP statement and to the core value reflected in that statement: academic freedom. Academic freedom in the classroom and in scholarly endeavors is foundational to the forms of inquiry that shape philosophy, as an academic discipline and as a profession. As such, the APA underscores not only the right of all professional philosophers to academic freedom, but also the responsibility to safeguard and sustain it.*

The APA further affirms that academic freedom and shared governance in institutions of higher learning must remain free from political intrusion. Political restrictions on teaching and scholarship undermine the ability of philosophers and other university researchers to search for and disseminate knowledge. This compromises the fundamental mission of the university.

*This paragraph is adapted from the APA Code of Conduct.
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ehz
ehz
1 year ago

“academic freedom and shared governance in institutions of higher learning must remain free from political intrusion” — very much agreed. It would be nice to see this applied to all kinds of political intrusions.

drohan
drohan
Reply to  ehz
1 year ago

The question is ‘who pays?’ In the end, people working in disciplines that do not pay the bills are more often than not hard-core leftist. Under what circumstance does it make any sense for the taxpayer in a red state to fund such areas of study?

Politics will be part of the process as long as there are publicly funded universities.

Nicolas Delon
Reply to  drohan
1 year ago

How does this apply to other publicly funded institutions such as the police, the military, or intelligence agencies?

William Peden
William Peden
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

People in these institutions do not enjoy anything like academic freedom, as far as I know, and they are much more subject to political influence than public universities.

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  William Peden
1 year ago

Is that a good thing?

MCS
MCS
Reply to  drohan
1 year ago

If you are going to toss in a conclusory statement like “are more often than not hard-core leftist [sic],” please provide the data you have to support it and define “hard core” and “leftist” in the context in which you have used those terms. Otherwise, your comment is meaningless and only makes you appear to be uneducated about academics and a writer of pure dross.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  drohan
1 year ago

Drohan, I think that if we want to keep receiving public money, we do need to ask ourselves why a rational conservative should want to pay for our work. I put it to you that if a leftist academic is neither partisan nor hostile to conservatives, it can make sense for conservatives to keep paying for their work, even when they disagree with their conclusions. For instance, a leftist political philosopher can lay out the best cases on all sides of an issue to help people decide for themselves.

Laura
Reply to  drohan
1 year ago

What disciplines “do not pay the bills”? Whose bills? This is a philosophy blog and the philosophy programs I have been part of were extremely inexpensive and made plenty of money by enrolling lots of students. Where then was the loss in paying for them? Likewise the students appear to have gone on and become capable of paying their own bills. I’m wondering where the problem is supposed to be.

Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

The APA is right to condemn the dreadful restrictions DeSantis’ is putting on academic freedom. We can expect to see more of this sort of thing, given plunging public perceptions of the value of academia. I think that defending ourselves is going to require either doing without government money or reducing the level of political partisanship in academia.

A.D.
A.D.
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

I know this won’t be popular, but I think that we should go with the latter option: if we reduce the hostility toward non-leftists in academia, we will get less push back like we’re seeing in Florida.

Additionally, many academics appear to think that everything is political (e.g. ‘the personal is political’), which leads to universities being politicized. That should stop too.

David Wallace
Reply to  A.D.
1 year ago

Since we should reduce the hostility towards non-leftists in academia anyway on independent grounds, this seems to be a win-win scenario.

Mark van Roojen
Mark van Roojen
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I agree with the point that the lack of hostility is in any case a good idea, though I also think people can heatedly take the positions they agree with and also that some things call for heated calling out. But I doubt that this is a winning political strategy as for the most part these attacks are not happening because they are anywhere close to justified. They are being manufactured to further the careers of particular ambitious politicians who knowingly and willfully misrepresent the positions of their opponents. So it is more like win for treating one’s opponents decently, but no further along for opposing the politicization of universities for partisan advantage.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  A.D.
1 year ago

I wish I could agree. The problem becomes for me, at least in Humanities disciplines, is that to root certain claims in facts becomes itself seen as a political statement (considered by those for whom such facts don’t comport with their strongly held beliefs as offensive). One can try to state them in as respectful and caring manner, but some will still be highly offended. Bonhoffer’s theory of stupidity bears itself out to be highly accurate, sadly, and I don’t know there’s a way around it without large-scale reform of education, culture, etc…

Last edited 1 year ago by Scott
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Scott
1 year ago

Which part do you not agree with?

Laura
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

I am wondering how reducing the level of political partisanship in academia would stop governors or legislators from interfering with academic freedom, making certain concepts illegal, and so on. Is the idea that such persons would recognize a reduction in partisanship and then decide to accept the concepts they now ban or seek to ban? Have they chosen to violate academic freedom for legitimate reasons that would be changed If circumstances improve?

Josh
Josh
Reply to  Laura
1 year ago

The thought seems to be that since academia is viewed as a highly partisan hotbed of leftist indoctrination, right wing actors will see it as an enemy that needs to be curtailed. If academia were instead viewed as a non-partisan forum for debate and research right wingers would be less likely to restrict what can be discussed.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Laura
1 year ago

Reducing the level of political partisanship would not stop anyone from interfering with academic freedom. It would give governors or legislators less ammunition to use to secure public support for interfering with academic freedom.

Laura
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

I take your point seriously but I’m not sure how that is supposed to play out. Is partisanship reduction a matter of hiring different sorts of partisans, at which point we would achieve a more appealing balance? At that point the public would become aware of it and unlikely to support attacks on academic freedom of the sort of see today? Is it a matter of current partisans being nicer to one another within the academy, which likewise would get noticed or publicized somehow and then the public would no longer support attacks on DEI or SEL or CRT or whatever the latest is? I seriously want to know because I don’t understand how people within the academy are supposed to take appeasement actions that will stop this kind of thing.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Laura
1 year ago

Laura, we are not going to “stop this kind of thing”, but we may be able to reduce public support for it. No, I don’t think we should hire different sorts of partisans to balance things out. I think we should be less politically partisan. Public perception of academia, particularly the humanities, is very low. In part, this is driven by public awareness of political partisanship in the academy.

Laura
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

I don’t know that public perception of the academic humanities is low. This message might be promoted by a lot of politically partisan media, but the only studies I’m aware of where people are asked about it don’t seem to support this idea. In short, I don’t see an adequate basis for arguing that people in the humanities need to change or become less partisan in order to have a better public image. I think political partisans find it useful to attack academic humanities, regardless of what the wider public thinks. So I’m not persuaded that humanities itself needs to change in response to this phenomenon.

Examples:
https://www.amacad.org/publication/what-everyone-says-public-perceptions-humanities-media

https://www.amacad.org/humanities-indicators/humanities-american-life-survey-publics-attitudes-and-engagement

Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

My colleagues and I at New College are grateful for the APA’s support in these difficult times.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nicolas Delon
Helen
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

I am sorry that it is happening and I sincerely hope it does something. To those who say it will do nothing, I hope they have alternate ideas, petitions etc in place to help their colleagues at New College of Florida. Hang in there!

actionfaction
1 year ago

While the statements from the AAUP and the APA are welcome, what are our professional organizations actually going to *do* about this? The AAUP statement ends with the declaration that they will “issue a report”, which is almost comedic.

Josh
Josh
Reply to  actionfaction
1 year ago

What would you have them do?

Helen
1 year ago

Predictably people here are claiming that if the New College of Florida would only water down their commitments to justice, inclusiveness to LGBTQ etc, then there would be less pushback. The number of times this has actually helped is exactly zero.
You do not learn from tactics such as those by DeSantis by pandering into his ideology. You learn by seeing how he wins by overturning boards of directors, stacking the courts, and all the usual tactics https://helensreflectionsblog.wordpress.com/2023/02/10/how-to-really-learn-from-what-far-right-politicians-are-doing/

Last edited 1 year ago by Helen
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Helen
1 year ago

Helen, I don’t think that anyone here has suggested watering down commitments to justice or inclusiveness to LGBTQ. I don’t think those are entailed by reducing political partisanship or hostility to those we disagree with politically.

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

If you don’t reduce commitments to social justice, etc, the hostility will remain.. So either they are suggesting reducing the commitments and they are very naive about the conditions. Even the word ‘social justice’ is demonized. The last sentence here doesn’t understand the poltical dynamics of the situation and is in dreamland.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Paul
1 year ago

Whatever we do, hostility will remain. There’s nothing we can do to get rid of all hostility. But the level of public support or opposition is likely to vary depending on what we do.

J.A.M.
Reply to  Helen
1 year ago

This is completely true, there is no acceptable level of “neutrality” short of theology. Otherwise, universities and especially the humanities remain an inherent opponent of far-right and evangelical stances, which fair poorly when exposed to diverse and open student populations and the encouragement of critical thinking.

It’s actually fairly difficult to attend non-religious schools through your PhD and remain just as evangelical and socially conservative as you started. So the fact that there are more liberal professors (and even the conservatives are rarely like DeSantis) is not some “unnatural” defect to be remedied, but a reflection of how rationally ungrounded DeSantis is.

Prof L
Prof L
Reply to  J.A.M.
1 year ago

I love to be lectured on the irrationality of religious conservatives by people who don’t know the difference between “fair” and “fare”.

Patrick Lin
1 year ago

A good start, even if only symbolic. But “academic freedom” is so vague and doesn’t have real teeth, i.e., there’s no binding law that protects it.

I’m not a lawyer and don’t follow this issue much, but could it be argued that the 1st Amendment affords protection from this kind of governmental interference?

Florida’s plan seems to amount to stacking the deck toward a particular ideology and goal of censorship. The new board members might not be government officials themselves (but could be), but they’re at least governmental proxies, having been appointed specifically by the state.

Does anyone know if this argument has been attempted?

JESP is good actually
11 months ago

The Florida Philosophical Association has issued an open letter, which can be found on our website.