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‘So to Speak’ Podcast: Alice Dreger on Academic Freedom

Every year, we at FIRE put out our list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech. And this year, surprisingly, half of the schools on the list earned their spot because they threatened faculty’s right to speak out in some way.

One institution on that list was Northwestern University.

Last year, Northwestern made headlines for its extraordinary attacks on academic freedom on two separate occasions. Once for its 72-day Title IX investigation into Professor Laura Kipnis’ public writings and comments about sexual politics on campus. And on another occasion, for its censorship of a faculty-produced bioethics journal that Northwestern feared would damage its medical school’s “brand.”

This latest episode of So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast is about academic freedom, and our guest is Alice Dreger.

Dreger is an historian of medicine and science, a sex researcher, a mainstream writer, and what she calls “an (im)patient advocate.” She also formerly held the position of full professor in Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and she was a guest editor for the bioethics journal that Northwestern sought to censor. Last year, Dreger released a book about academic freedom titled, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice.

In this episode, we speak with Dreger about the importance of academic freedom at Northwestern and beyond, why the corporatization of the modern university threatens free speech on campus, and why we must use the word “formerly” when describing her tenure at Northwestern.

A video of this podcast interview is available at FIRE’s YouTube page, along with a video of a recent keynote address Dreger gave at this year’s FIRE Student Network Conference.

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