NUMS administrators asked Atrium’s editorial team to expunge parts of the article from the web because the content was considered inflammatory and too damaging to the new NUMS “brand,” what otherwise are called “other institutional interests.” Before long, Clinical Professor of Humanities and Bioethics, Kristi Kirschner, resigned, telling Inside Higher Ed at the time that such censorship would have a “chilling effect, antithetical to the idea of the university.”
But, after more than four months, the administrators’ requests are moot. Atrium suspended publication following a funding cut allegedly unrelated to the Peace article.
Inside Higher Ed now reports that the guest editor of the “edgy” Atrium issue, Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Alice Dreger, has also resigned. In her resignation letter, Dreger wrote:
It’s so petty—that’s what I kept saying—it’s a frickin’ blow job in 1978. Of course, it wound up as the Streisand effect, where everybody pays attention.
...a profound mistake that cut to the very heart of academic freedom. It should have been acknowledged and corrected immediately….To this day, the university has not admitted its mistake, and it has not affirmed its commitment to academic freedom in a way that makes clear that similar incidents will not occur in the future.
In this case, Dreger is using “academic freedom” to defend a “right” for scholars to publish their research findings. This raises an important question: Does censorship—or, in this instance, “sexorship”—infringe on academic freedom? That is, should an institution’s “brand” and policies—like those of NUMS—trump the “right” for scholars to publish their research findings in journals sponsored by that institution?
Dreger believes so. That is, editors possess “academic freedom” to determine what should and should not be published in their journals.
But, this raises a problem: Those aren’t “their” journals. Editors serve at the pleasure of a journal’s publisher and/or board, which may or may not include representatives of the institutions, groups, etc., sponsoring that journal. Those entities possess the prior right to “censor” articles. And, when editors publish objectionable content, those entities also possess the prior right to “censor”—or fire—editors.
Expanding the concept of academic freedom to include a “right” to publish an article without regard to a journal’s sponsors is as troubling as is the belief that professors have the right to state whatever they want inside of college and universities classrooms. That’s not a matter of academic “freedom” because with every freedom comes responsibility. Instead, it’s a matter of taking academic “license,” that is, going as far as the institution permits before pushing back.
Let the discussion begin…
To read The Motley Monk’s previous post, click on the following link:
To read the Peace article published in Atrium, click on the following link:
To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link: