Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Amy Wax again, and Leiter 

Under the AAUP definition of academic freedom, "extramural" speech by faculty is protected speech that cannot be sanctioned by a university employer.  Yet even the First Amendment right of public sector employees to free speech can be outweighed by the employer's interest in running its workplace efficiently and without excessive disruption (the "Pickering test").  One can imagine a court being sympathetic to a private university's invocation of similar reasoning.
"the employer's interest in running its workplace efficiently and without excessive disruption"
Workplace efficiency: the definition of the neoliberal academy.  By that logic U. Penn could have fired Du Bois for being uppity, MIT could've fired Chomsky, and teach-ins would have been career suicide.

I'm a stronger defender of academic freedom than Brian Leiter. I guess I've always assumed that.

Leiter: "Soon the only students who can safely take her classes at Penn will be Jews and WASPs."

New language from him. But student safety isn't the issue. The issue is the risk of lawsuits.

And again in July, and Leiter begins to see a problem: "Penn Dean calls for "major sanctions" (which could include termination) against tenured law professor"

The Dean's letter is here...  The AFA has now sent a letter to the Penn President in response.   A few observations of my own: 

...The AFA letter,  however, neglects the fact that some of the allegations concern not extramural speech, but speech and actions in the classroom; and some concern extramural speech on matters that impact the functioning of the school.  In the former category is the fact that Professor Wax invited an infamous (and unabashed) racist, Jared Taylor, to speak in her class and have lunch with her students.  It is dubious that the decision to host Mr. Taylor in her classroom can be defended on academic freedom grounds, as a professionally sound choice given academic standards in law teaching.  It also has the potential to implicate violation of anti-discrimination norms, to which the law school is bound (although one would need more details to say for sure).  In the latter category is Professor Wax's public disparagement of the academic competence of her Black students, which I have addressed before.   Disciplinary action for both of these incidents would not violate principles of academic freedom (indeed, Wax has already been disciplined for the latter incident).

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