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66 Tex. L. Rev. 1265 (1987-1988)
Profession and Constitution: Two Definitions of Academic Freedom in America

handle is hein.journals/tlr66 and id is 1299 raw text is: Profession and Constitution: Two Definitions
of Academic Freedom in America
Walter P. Metzger*
I. Introduction
As the designated stage-setter for this Symposium on Academic
Freedom, I will lay out some of the conceptual furniture of the subject
before the curtain rises on the panelists' consideration of its current state.
I propose to concentrate on definitions. Everyone would agree that free-
doms are defined by the manner in which they are defended-by the
clarifying factuality of judgments rendered in specific cases that vindicate
their claims and assess their limits. But the opposite is no less true: free-
doms are defended by the manner in which they are defined-by images
in the heads of monitors and judges that identify the persons eligible for
protection, the prima facie instances of infringement, and the standards
of proof for assigning blame. Convinced that the second causal nexus
has not received the attention it deserves, I shall comment on how aca-
demic freedom fares solely by pondering on what academic freedom
What academic freedom means in today's America can best be
grasped, I think, by dwelling on the pivotal definitions it has inherited
from the past. To retrieve those definitions, we need not backtrack very
far. Clearly, the martyrology of academic freedom has a much longer
history than its seminal formulations. In America, the tale of suffering in
its behalf goes back to the ouster of the heretical first president of
Harvard College by its Puritan masters, and even further back, by senti-
mental appropriation, to the more pitiable ordeals of Socrates and Abe-
lard. By contrast, the systematic search for a definition did not
effectively begin until after the Civil War and did not bear significant
fruit until after the turn of the century. A review of instances in which
academics have suffered for freedom's sake ranges over the entire Ameri-
can experience; a reconstruction of major efforts to define academic free-
dom faces the less daunting prospect of covering only relatively recent
In this country, the quest for definitions had two supremely creative
Professor of History, Columbia University.


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