David Wippman.
In a Washington Post op-ed titled “Florida is trying to roll back a century of gains for academic freedom,” President David Wippman and co-author Cornell Professor of American Studies Glenn Altschuler began by outlining the wave of “educational gag orders” banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” enacted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other political leaders.

Subtitled “The state wants to severely limit what professors can say in the classroom,” the writers pointed specifically to state “lawyers who contend that faculty at public universities are government employees, in-classroom speech is ‘government speech,’ and the state ‘has simply chosen to regulate its own speech’ with the Stop WOKE Act. … If deemed constitutional, Florida's statute would overturn more than a century of progress in the development of academic freedom, which has helped American universities achieve global preeminence.”

The op-ed includes a history of the evolution of academic freedom as an increasingly accepted concept beginning in the early 1900s with the formation of the American Association of University Professors. World Wars, fears of radical socialism, and the McCarthy era, among other issues, influenced fluctuations in support for academic freedom over the decades.

The authors wrote that in 1967, in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, the Supreme Court recognized academic freedom, at least for public institutions, as a “special concern” of the First Amendment, “which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.”

They concluded their essay with this warning, “If Florida ultimately prevails [in the courts], academic freedom in public university classrooms — and perhaps elsewhere — will be history.”

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