Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1991

Abstract

Campus harassment codes pose an unprecedented problem for the AAUP, not only because the issues of academic freedom they raise are novel, but also because the academic community is itself deeply divided over those issues. Historically, the major assaults upon academic freedom have come from outside the academy--from politicians, trustees, and donors who have sought to limit inquiry and restrict the expression of unpopular views. Ideas about academic freedom have been shaped in the course of repelling these assaults and in constructing barricades that will safeguard the freedoms to teach and to learn that are at the center of the academic enterprise. Perhaps it is not surprising, in these circumstances, that the rhetoric of academic freedom should have tended toward the absolute. Time, however, has a way of unsettling absolutes, bringing problems not previously anticipated or, if anticipated, not fully appreciated. The inter-group tensions that have led many institutions to adopt harassment codes are just such a problem. The extraordinary controversy that the codes have generated within the academic community suggests, at the very least, a need to consider whether the traditional rhetoric of academic freedom--rhetoric designed to address concerns quite remote from those that have led to adoption of the codes--suffices to guide judgment concerning the issues they raise.


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