A case and a case study of academic freedom

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in Garcetti v. Ceballos that public employees have less of a right to speak out on issues related to their employment than had generally been considered. Inside Higher Ed discusses the hedging in the opinion on academic freedom. Robert O’Neil has an important point, in his discussion with IHE’s Doug Lederman: does this mean that public employees (including public-institution faculty) have fewer rights precisely in areas where we have the most expertise? Perverse consequences…
And the NY Times has a feature about Louisiana State University’s attempt last fall to muzzle Ivor van Heerden, a nontenured leader of the university’s hurricane research center, because of his criticism of the levee systems. Fortunately, colleagues supported him and LSU administrators backed down. As reporter John Schwartz notes, van Heerden “suspects that his critics may not be as upset about what he might have gotten wrong as about what he has gotten right.” This is absolutely a case study of why academic freedom is important, and it’s critical to keep in mind that these cases pop up in areas crucial to public safety.

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