Emeritus New York University
Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford
Many myths about academic freedom have grown up in recent years. Before the nineteen thirties it was the rare university, if any, which openly committed itself to the principles of academic freedom, despite the 1915 Declaration of Principles of the American Association of University Professors, and despite the findings of its Committee A on Academic Freedom. Beginning with the nineteen forties more and more universities accepted as their own the AAUP declaration of principles of 1940 and subsequent explications of their meaning. Today it is the rare university which has not officially accepted those principles of academic freedom.
As is often the case when principles are almost universally endorsed, there is much ambiguity in the way they are interpreted. Sometimes the verbal agreement functions as a method of reconciling or concealing differences. With respect to practice, however, the greatest threats to academic freedom on American campuses in the last decade have come not from administrative or governmental authority but from militant minorities among students and faculty bodies. The most vehement groups have not hesitated on occasion to proclaim that "racists" and "fascists," defined very vaguely in terms of doctrines badly understood and often misstated, are not entitled to academic freedom in their teaching and research. On occasion meetings and classrooms have been forcibly disrupted and speakers and teachers threatened with physical harm — something almost unprecedented on American campuses. Despite temporary lulls in political activism among students