A Comparative Study of Academic Freedom and
Student Politics 1
Difficulties concerning academic freedom are usually considered as interference in the teaching and research functions of a university, to be resolved by recourse to formal authority or brute force. 2 The most blatant of such interferences occur in the purges of universities that follow the ascent to power of autocratic regimes. But this is only a single aspect of a broad attack on freedom of all kinds, and rarely a specifically academic issue. Why certain regimes are opposed to freedom may be a sociological question, but it will not teach us anything about the sociology of universities or intellectual life in general.
We propose, therefore, to treat academic freedom as a set of institutional arrangements designed to facilitate teaching and research on the most advanced level. It is the same kind of thing as the freedom or autonomy of doctors, lawyers, or other professionals; it is one of the necessary conditions of the efficient and effective performance of a job which requires specialized knowledge, ability, intellectual integrity, and, preferably, creativity.
This, of course, is not the only approach to academic freedom, nor even the most important one. Like all freedom, that of academic teachers, researchers, and students is first of all a moral question. That aspect, however, requires a discussion of basic principles and ultimate goals. Here, we shall restrict ourselves to the discussion of means-ends relationships; given the goals of teaching and research, what are the means of attaining them, and what are the conditions facilitating or impeding their attainment. Besides,