Academic Freedom Initiative

Academic freedom is currently under threat in many parts of the world – including in at least parts of the United States. Against this background we wish to revisit the normative and legal bases of academic freedom. On the whole, it seems fair to say that theoretical considerations on academic freedom – and how academic freedom does or does not connect to theories of democracy, conceptions of free speech, etc. – are relatively underdeveloped. One symptom of this relative underdevelopment is the tendency to conflate free speech and academic freedom, even among sophisticated participants in the debate, as well as the tendency to treat “campus” as a homogeneous space for the application of ethical guidelines and quasi-legal rules. Another is an inability to link debates about academic freedom with discussions in moral philosophy and, surprisingly, larger debates about pedagogy. Lastly, many debates are missing an international and distinctly comparative perspective.

The Academic Freedom Initiative organizes occasional events to probe the philosophical bases of academic freedom, to study its history in different parts of the world, and, not least, to hear from those who have been involved in concretely defending it (not least because many academics – some of them by now in exile -- have drawn lessons from their experiences which deserve to be known more widely).   

AFI welcomes proposals for events and other concrete initiatives from anyone in the Princeton University community.