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Quote of the Day on Academic Freedom



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From a letter to the editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin:

Alfino claims that performance of “The Vagina Monologues” is a matter of academic freedom.  However, academic freedom is not a blanket principle that mandates or legitimates that anything and everything can or must be done in an academic context.  It is, rather, the policy that specifies that academic life presumes the free inquiry into truth.

The author, David Calhoun (director of Gonzaga’s Socratic Club), then quotes from the 1940 AAUP statement on academic freedom, and continues:

The free search for truth does not require that every available book be read, that every poem be recited, that every available speaker be invited to campus.  In the present context, genuine academic freedom does not require that every play ever written be performed publicly on a university campus.  The objective is not the airing of every possible form of every possible idea.  Rather, practical judgments of pedagogy and practice are employed all the time by teachers and administrators regarding the best means to critically explore ideas and the arguments that support them.

Calhoun also makes some good points about the university’s efforts to exclude dissenting voices from the conversation about the campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”

His letter responds to a posting by Gonzaga philosophy professor Mark Alfino, which argues that “academic freedom justifies allowing the play.”



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