Archive for academic freedom

L’Affaire Weiler – A Brief Legal Assessment of the French Court’s Judgment

Posted in Legal issues with tags , , on 21 March 2011 by Steve

“According to Article 11 of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 16 August 1789, the right to free expression of ideas and opinion is one of the most precious human rights …” (more)

[Laurent Pech, EJIL: Talk!, 21 March]

Academic Freedom Triumphs, Weiler Wins in French Court

Posted in Legal issues with tags , , on 5 March 2011 by Steve

“The attempted prosecution of Professor Joe Weiler by a disgruntled academic unhappy with a harsh book review has been dismissed by a French Court …” (more)

[William A Schabas, PhD studies in Human Rights, 5 March]

Academic working hours, spent at the place of work

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , on 13 February 2011 by Steve

“As the academic profession continues to come under scrutiny, one traditional condition of a lecturer’s employment is being called into question: the freedom to decide how to arrange the working day, and where to do the work …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 13 February]

Cary Nelson, No University is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 13 February 2011 by Steve

“Had President Dwight D Eisenhower not initially used it, I would have recommended the title Mandate for Change. Instead, Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has a Kingian title for his recent volume on academic freedom No University is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom …” (more)

[Peter N Kirstein, Logos, 2011 issue 1]

Academic Freedom and Campus Dissent

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , , , on 12 February 2011 by Steve

Invitation – All Welcome: Academic Freedom and Campus Dissent

As part of our on-going commitment to the project of ‘Enabling Dissent: the Creation of a Civil Society’, The Centre for Public Culture Studies, IADT, the Clinton Institute UCD, and the Dept of Film Studies UCD, are hosting a special event on the 15th of February 2011, at 6.30 pm. We invite you to presentations from our guest panel, followed by discussion and input from the audience:

Panel Speakers:

Chair: Paddy Healy, Former President, Teachers’ Union of Ireland

Professor Stephen Shapiro, University of Warwick: Academic Freedom and Campus Dissent in the UK

Dr. Paula Gilligan, Centre for Public Cultures, IADT: ‘Flexicurity/Insecurity’, New Managerial Cultures and Academic Freedom

Aidan Rowe, Free Education for Everyone, NUIM: Academic Freedom and Campus Dissent – the Student Perspective

This event proposes to ask academics and students to reflect on what role they can have in a society which is shifting to the Right, and what role they can have in ‘speaking truth to power’ in today’s academic institutions?

We invite all students and academics to participate in the discussion, to bring along or email questions, and/or brief discourses on the topic. We also propose to expand the discussions on our website.

Date: Tuesday the 15th of February 2011, William Jefferson Clinton Auditorium, UCD, Belfield. IADT students meet at 5 pm at the IADT gates to get 46a bus.

To book a place: email To email questions for the panel: email

Statement by Campaign for academic Freedom in Reply to Irish Universities Association

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , , on 12 February 2011 by Steve

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) issued a statement on February 4 in response to a call to defend the principle of tenure on which academic freedom is based. This call, signed by 160 academics, was published in the Irish Times on January 20.

We note that the IUA has no authority to speak on behalf of Irish universities. It is a private company of which the seven university presidents are directors.

In its response, the IUA could have given clear assurances that it was opposed to any changes to the relevant clauses in the Universities Act. As the law of the land trumps industrial relations processes, we would have taken considerable comfort from such a declaration.

As it is, however, the IUA makes no such declaration. Indeed, the IUA statement is replete with ambiguity and dissimulation. Most remarkably, it suggests that the principle of tenure might be seen as protecting academics from dismissal for misconduct, though this is not the case.

The IUA statement is causing increased concern in the academic community.

Steve Hedley, Professor of Law at UCC, and a signatory to the call, has given a detailed reply to the statement on the blog Ninth Level Ireland.

The IUA states: “What we must do as a foundation for that defence (of academic freedom – PH), is to distinguish between freedom and licence. This is what we are seeking to do in the proposed contractual provision which states that it is to be acknowledged that the freedoms which are contained in Section 14 of the Universities Act are to be exercised in the context of the framework of rights and obligations contained in the contract.”

It should be understood that the contract to which the IUA refers is not the existing contract but a new contract to be put in place pursuant to the Public Services Agreement (Croke Park Deal).

Steve Hedley comments: “The other, and more pessimistic, interpretation (of the IUA statement – PH) is that academic contracts are to be read as limiting the guarantee in the Universities Act – in other words, that academic freedom should only exist to the extent that each academic’s contract allows for it. This is extremely worrying. Academic freedom is, in large part, freedom from university management – and so is not worth much if it can be removed by a simple clause in an employment contract, drafted by that same university management. I don’t know what is intended here; and I certainly hope that this reading is wrong. But if the object of the statement was to reassure, then it has failed in its object.”

On the question of tenure the IUA states: “Here, we are seeking to establish that tenure is consistent with the established corpus of employment law and, in that context, refers to the duration of contract. However, the concept of tenure dates from a time when employment law was much less well developed. We now have a national legal framework incorporating, inter alia, the Unfair Dismissals and Fixed Term Workers Acts which provide considerable protections to employees generally. We strongly support employment security for staff.”

Steve Hedley comments:

“With that introduction, the IUA statement gives a number of reasons why tenure is positively undesirable. Tenure is an ‘amorphous concept which somehow subsists in a parallel realm’ to the rest of employment law; this ‘creates ambiguity, and at worst, creates the impression that tenure will be advanced to create an absolute prohibition on dismissal or sanction, even in the worst and thankfully extremely rare cases of misconduct’ … The solution is ‘to establish that tenure is consistent with the established corpus of employment law and, in that context, refers to the duration of contract’. This seems to mean that tenure, properly understood, should only mean that each academic’s contract lasts as long as it lasts – in other words, that ‘tenure’ is to be all but meaningless, adding nothing to ordinary employment rights.”

To be clear: the signatories of the January 20 letter never suggested that tenure could or should preclude disciplinary procedures in cases of misconduct and/or breach of duty. Academics have never been “unsackable” on foot of such allegations as some commentators and propagandists have claimed. Nor have they been absolutely free to exercise their academic freedom (or responsibility?) to defend academic values without fear or favour. As a number of documented Irish cases show, some of them have been subjected to harassment and intimidation for speaking out in defence of academic standards and intellectual integrity, even if they haven’t been subjected to the ultimate silencing, namely redundancy.

It is because tenure confers immunity from this ultimate abuse of power that it is internationally recognised as essential to academic freedom by UNESCO and by other international bodies such as Education International. And it is because academic freedom as currently protected by Irish law is such a fundamental principle of democracy that all repressive regimes have sought to eliminate or to limit that freedom.

Instead of allaying the concerns that we expressed in our original letter, the IUA response has heightened them.

Following persistent work by the IFUT Branch, the Board of Trinity College has already issued a declaration in support of academic freedom and tenure in December 2010.

We therefore call now on the governing authorities of all academic institutions to dissociate themselves from the IUA statement and to issue a similar declaration.

Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Convenor of Gathering for Academic Freedom
On behalf of the Signatories to the Call
88 Griffith Court,
Dublin 3

Academic freedom is a touchstone of a democratic society

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , on 8 February 2011 by Steve

“Academic freedom is not perhaps a common topic of national debate, but over the past year or so there has been an unusual amount of public interest in what it means …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Irish Times, 8 February]

Academic freedom – is it really under threat?

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , , , on 7 February 2011 by Steve

“A large lobby group of academics – including several top scholars – says yes, while the seven university presidents emphatically say no …” (more)

[Education Matters, 7 February]

College presidents reject academic freedom claims

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , , on 5 February 2011 by Steve

“The seven university presidents have disputed claims by a group of prominent scholars that the Croke Park agreement threatens academic freedom …” (more)

[Seán Flynn, Irish Times, 5 February]
[The full statement is available on the IUA site]



Managerial era ‘threatens’ academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , , on 3 February 2011 by Steve

“There is a ‘vast’ amount of litigation concerning academic freedom in the US, while in the UK there is ‘virtually none’. Yet in the latter, according to Eric Barendt, emeritus professor of media law at University College London, ‘the concept is incorporated into university charters and implied terms of contracts, at least in the pre-1992 universities’ …” (more)

[Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education, 3 February]

Academic freedom and tenure: some further thoughts

Posted in Legal issues with tags on 1 February 2011 by Steve

“I signed the petition because I support the idea of academic freedom, not least because I’m wary that hostility to academic freedom might be masking a deeper and dangerous philistinism. We may be quite a bit away from the Nazi book-burnings and sacking of academics, but that episode reminds us of the need to put boundaries on the extent of state control …” (more)

[Donncha Kavanagh, University Blog, 1 February]

Defending academic freedom

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 1 February 2011 by Steve

“Madam, – It is well known that when Prof Morgan Kelly wrote his first article on the impending insolvency of the Irish banks (The Irish Times, September 7th, 2007) – more than a year before the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the worldwide financial crisis – he was subjected to pressure from the bankers to silence him …” (more)

[Stephen Mennell, Irish Times, 1 February]

Lack of trust is the biggest threat to our academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 1 February 2011 by Steve

“On January 22nd a meeting of academics took place in central Dublin to discuss perceived threats to academic freedom. It had been announced in a letter to the editor of this newspaper signed by 160 members of staff from the university and institute of technology sectors …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Irish Times, 1 February]

Defending academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , on 27 January 2011 by Steve

“Madam, – Dr Ed Walsh challenges the prevailing framework of academic tenure in Irish higher education (Education Today, January 25th). This is welcome. However his implied recommendation to adopt the approach of many US institutions who award nine- month contracts renewed on multiple occasions is flawed …” (more)

[Westley Forsythe, Irish Times, 27 January]

Defending academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration with tags on 26 January 2011 by Steve

“Madam, – The idea of attempting to enlist Albert Einstein in the attack on tenure, as Alex Staveley does in his letter (January 22nd), is intellectually perverse …” (more)

[Stephen Schwartz, Irish Times, 26 January]

Academic freedom in a modern democracy

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 24 January 2011 by Steve

“As readers of this blog will know – and as you can see in more detail in the two posts below this one – concern has been expressed in Ireland by a number of university and college staff about the future of academic freedom …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 24 January]

In defence of academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , on 24 January 2011 by Steve

“This is the opening speech by Paddy Healy (former President of the Teachers Union of Ireland) delivered to the meeting of Irish academics on January 22 in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 24 January]

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Necessary Rights for Irish Academics

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , , on 11 January 2011 by Steve

Academic freedom is the right of the faculty member to select one’s materials, methods, pedagogy and points of view in teaching one’s discipline. That is to be empowered with a ‘voice’. Academic freedom is an absolute necessity for a democratic society. It pertains to both teaching (freedom of speech) and research (search for truth). These aspects of the academic life are indispensable for the success of the university. Faculty need to be free of the constraints of censorship and interference in the conduct of their duties by the institution or other agents and agencies in the community.

The very essence of the university, for faculty and for students, is freedom to seek the truth. In fact, one might claim that the university is the only institution in our society that has the privilege of devoting itself to truth, beauty, and rationality. This undertaking is not to be taken lightly. The word university literally means ‘the community of scholars’ and institutions of higher education have been created precisely for these reasons.

Let us begin by considering the issue of academic freedom. The very essence of the institution of higher education, whether it is a university or polytechnical unit, for faculty and for students, is freedom to seek the truth. In fact, one might claim that the academy is the only institution in our society that has the privilege of devoting itself to truth, beauty, and rationality. This is quite a privilege and quite a challenge; and it is not to be taken lightly. The university community has been created precisely for these reasons.

Faculty members, after a probationary period have a property right to their position and cannot be removed barring ‘just cause’. Tenure does not guarantee a post for life. When I was first appointed at UCD in 1981 there was one condition in my contract letter for removal-being guilty of ‘gross moral turpitude’. Irish academics had real tenure in those days. I do not know if new conditions for removal of tenured faculty have been introduced. In North Carolina there are I believe five reasons for justly removing a faculty member with tenure: moral turpitude; negligence; inadequate performance, financial exigency; and mental or physical incapacity. I cannot see how the NUIG Plan can work as it would be a definite ‘breach of contract’ if one side unilaterally creates new conditions without the agreement of the faculty member. Tenure really means that one ‘owns their position’ and the right to return to that position year after year after the probationary period. I strongly suggest that the legal position of tenure in Irish law be investigated as prolegomenon to challenging the NUIG Plan.

When an individual cannot enjoy academic freedom because of real threats to continued employment, advancement or career, the educational function of the institution ceases to be realized. While this is simple to say, its import and power cannot be ignored or diminished. Academic freedom is an enormous issue and it must be protected at all cost. But is tenure important to the protection of academic freedom? The answer, clearly, is Yes. Tenure secures a working community of scholars based on accepted academic values and aims, and it guarantees that a person cannot be dismissed from that community without due process and without consideration based on well established objective academic criteria. As it turns out, the truth is not always popular, especially within circles of power and wealth. Remove the system of tenure and we shall witness a ‘Flight of the Dons’. That would be an unanticipated outcome of the same nonsensical market model the current grey philistines are promoting. I ask that faculty resist these plans that would undermine the current academic freedom and tenure system in Ireland.

Dr Jim McKernan
College of Education,
East Carolina University,
Greenville USA 27858

Note: the author was previously the King Distinguished Professor at East Carolina University; Dean and Chair of the Faculty of Education, University of Limerick and College Lecturer in Education, University College Dublin. Email:

Will Third Level Education be Irretrievably Damaged Like The Banks

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , , , , on 3 January 2011 by Steve

“Following conversations with colleagues in various universities, I now have a reasonable idea of the demands on unions being made by the University authorities under the Croke Park Deal. These demands confirm the predictions in my e-mail message but go even further. I include these demands towards the end of this piece …” (more)

[Paddy Healy’s Blog, 3 January]

We’re All Conservatives Now

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 22 December 2010 by Steve

“Last week conservative activist David Horowitz, author of the Academic Bill of Rights, e-mailed me to report, in sorrow, that Penn State University had weakened ‘the only academic freedom provision … worthy of the name’ …” (more)

[Stanley Fish, New York Times, 20 December]