Academic Freedom

April 2001

It is precisely to safeguard academic freedom that universities must not succumb to granting students particular privileges to attend specific political event. Once a university decides that one or other such events warrants the granting of such privileges, independence has already been tainted. This is because the vetting of political initiatives taken by students involves value judgments about the importance of each event. If the university were to allow students privileges to attend any political event, an option clearly unworkable, there would be no such compromise. Would the university allow students of conscience privileges to protest at, say, an abortion colloquium? A world conference on feminist issues? A forum on Third World health issues? No way.

My father was a Holocaust survivor and it has been edifying to me, in recently reading the social history of Germany in the Thirties, to see how insidiously and almost unconsciously the universities contributed, by just such small capitulations as this, to the rise of Nazism. University students and professors were encouraged to, and did, as the rot spread, show their allegiance to the Reich by a certain kind of heinous activism.