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Adam Kissel to Speak About Academic Freedom at University of Chicago Law School

Today, FIRE's Adam Kissel will participate in an Academic Freedom Symposium hosted by the American Constitution Society, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Federalist Society at the University of Chicago Law School.

The Symposium kicked off last night with a talk by Professor Aziz Huq on "Academic Freedom Around the World." The events pick up again today with a lunch panel featuring Adam and Professor Richard Shweder of the University of Chicago to discuss "Academic Freedom in Practice." The panel will take place at 12:15 p.m. in Room II in the law school.

Certainly Adam will have plenty to discuss, including efforts by some University of Chicago professors to put the kibosh on the creation of a proposed Milton Friedman Institute at the university. Such criticism is, of course, protected by academic freedom, but the professors tried to stifle their own critics. As Adam wrote in October of 2008:

The critics have sounded the alarm, first, because the Institute is going to do research on policywhich is a very common thing for professors to do.

Second, the critics have argued that it would be improper for the Institute to reach undergraduates with its messagewhich is what practically every department does, outside the professional schools. The critics warn that "[a]mong the more worrisome details embedded in the proposal is [that] the MFI will also use its assets to recruit and mentor undergraduates"!

Third, the critics warn that donors are going to be allowed to visit with faculty and talk with them about their research. Any such restriction against this access would be a clear violation of freedom of expression.

You can read Adam's additional commentary on the dispute here and here. No doubt, he will also discuss the Kalven Report, the University of Chicago's "Report on the University's Role in Political and Social Action" which took a stance of neutrality to protect the academic freedom of students and professors.

Additionally, Adam will discuss FIRE's own academic freedom cases, including our case at Brandeis University, where a professor was found guilty of racial harassment and punished with a class monitor and a disciplinary letter in his file for using the term "wetbacks" while criticizing it in his Latin American Politics course. Then there is the Grand Valley State case where the music department required its professors to have a "demonstrated commitment to the principles of diversity." And Adam will likely discuss Virginia Tech's "diversity accomplishments" requirement for merit raises, tenure, and promotion. In a more recent case, Harvard Law School certainly deserves mention for Dean Martha Minow's shameful attack on a student's private e-mail, and you can read Adam's commentary on the debacle here and here.

Later in the afternoon, at 2:50 p.m., University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer will have a conversation with Professor Geoffrey Stone, moderated by Peter Schmidt from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Dean Michael Schill will also participate. At 4:00 p.m., Professor Stanley Fish will deliver the keynote address on "The Oddness of Academic Freedom."

Other events taking place this week include discussions on "Academic Freedom and the Admissions Process," "Student Journalism and Academic Freedom," "Socially Responsible Investing and the Modern Research University," and "The Engaged University: The Modern Research University and Academic Freedom."

Today's panel is free and open to the public and we encourage any of our readers in the area to come by.

If you're interested in hosting a FIRE speaker for your event, check out the speakers page on the CFN website.

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