More on Academic Freedom in the Courts

You read about the case in Minnesota a week back, but there was another one this week and the impact is likely to be much clearer, assuming the other courts find the reasoning persuasive.

This one was a big win for Academic Freedom, yesterday–at least for me, given this whole bit of shenannigans (i.e., The Lounge).

Here’s a bit about it from The Chronicle:

Squarely tackling the question of whether the speech of a faculty member at a public college is covered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which held that public agencies can discipline their employees for any statements made in connection with their jobs, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit answered with an emphatic no.

“Applying Garcetti to the academic work of a public-university faculty member under the facts of this case could place beyond the reach of First Amendment protection many forms of public speech or service a professor engaged in during his employment,” the appellate panel’s unanimous decision says. “That would not appear to be what Garcetti intended, nor is it consistent with our long-standing recognition that no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.”

The ruling overturns a U.S. District Court’s decision to reject Mr. Adams’s assertions that the speech at issue in the case was constitutionally protected.

“Put simply,” the panel said, “Adams’s speech was not tied to any more specific or direct employee duty than the general concept that professors will engage in writing, public appearances, and service within their respective fields.”

Yeah, to you, Fourth Circuit Appeals Judges!

More on Human Rights

Speaking of rights, this is a fascinating story that (somehow) I’ve completely missed…from the end of the article:

To one who teaches about civil rights, I explain, it is humbling to see those rights shredded a few miles from my classroom. Among the hardest things to teach as a historian are the outsized fears, political motivations, and economic interests that rendered good people silent in the face of government repression, civil-rights violations, internment, and redbaiting.

We have freedom of speech and build bridges of dialogue and debate, I teach my students, and what makes that hard is that we have to hear things we do not like and be confronted with truths and opinions far removed from our own.

But those lessons are not upheld in our public culture, which has drawn arbitrary, silencing constrictions around the speech and association of Muslim-Americans. While Christian and Jewish political dissents regularly enter American public debate (militant Christian anti-abortion rhetoric, for instance, may be censured but is not criminalized), Islamic political dissent condemning U.S. practices becomes “subject to ferocious penalties,” as Randolph Bourne decried long ago, and Fahad had quoted in his paper.

“If you see something, say something.” Our duty, I believe, is different—to see in a terrorism suspect a person deserving of rights and humane treatment; to speak out against torture when it happens in a New York jail, not just when it occurs overseas; to insist that the Bill of Rights applies to all defendants all of the time. To take responsibility for the ways each of us has become complicit in the civil-rights violations of our era.

Definitely read the rest. Or at least save it for later

Did You Know About This?

Some interesting teaching/discussion possibilities here (and here) related to China and the recent crackdown on dissent. From The Wall Street Journal:

The U.S., Britain, France and Germany called for the release of Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most-famous artists, as his detention by Chinese authorities raised fears among his supporters that he could be charged with subversion or held indefinitely in extra-judicial custody as dozens of other activists have been over a six-week crackdown on dissent.

Mr. Ai, an outspoken critic of the government who has more than 70,000 followers on Twitter, has been out of contact since Chinese officials prevented him from boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong on Sunday morning and then led him away, according to several of his friends and assistants.

Interesting, no?