Ted Mitchell and Suzanne Nossel
March 23, 2023
We associate the idea of government censorship with authoritarian regimes such as those in Russia and China. It has no place in the United States, a nation founded on the free exchange of ideas.
For the nation’s colleges and universities, the idea of censorship is especially noxious. More than 79 years ago, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter noted that the “dependence of a free society on free universities… means the exclusion of governmental intervention in the intellectual life of a university.” Today, that careful separation between political dictates and colleges and universities is under unprecedented attack.
Contrary to popular opinion, “academic freedom” is not a license to spout irresponsible drivel; it is a responsibility to test and retest ideas, theories, and practices through research, peer review, and rigorous debate, examinations, and interactions that include both fellow scholars and students. Academic freedom also means ensuring that the widest possible variety of ideas and opinions can be freely expressed, and that dissenting views and contrary perspectives are welcomed rather than shut down. Scholars write so that others can learn, but also to engage others with differing points of view to uncover truth and advance knowledge. Professors teach so that they may push students to think critically about everything from molecular structure to political theory.