Jun 162007

Back in the very early 1980s I started a newspaper clipping file under the subject line “Academic Intolerance.” At the time it seemed ironic to find occasional examples of intolerance in institutions that were supposedly devoted to freedom of speech and inquiry. Since then the quantity and ferocity of the intolerance have increased to the point where the term no longer sounds oxymoronic.

I hadn’t known about this one, though, until I read Fred Thompson’s column today:

The head of Marquette’s philosophy department apparently didn’t get it. He took down Barry’s words and issued a statement that included the words, “while I am a strong supporter of academic freedom. I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not free-speech zones.” Since then, the Marquette philosophy department has stuck to its stance that Barry’s words are “patently offensive,” despite the fact that lots of other doors had slogans pasted on them.

You have to wonder just how oblivious that department chair is. The hallways and office doors of academia have long been free-speech zones. For decades I have been reading offensive and objectionable political statements on the doors of academic offices. I can point to a whole bunch of objectionable statements on the doors of the offices and labs where I work now. But while I usually disagree with what’s posted, I think it’s a great tradition. I think of how Martin Luther got the Reformation started by posting controversial statements on a door where they could be seen by passers by.

I see that this particular example has already been blogged to death. But it reminds me that this blog for some reason did not yet have an “Academic intolerance” category. It now does.

And whether or not Fred Thompson would make a good president, it’s great that he is bringing up issues like this. It will be good for the campaign if he can keep it up.

I long ago threw out my old clipping files. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, now that governments and other institutions are learning how to censor the internet. I still have my old clipping indexes, and some of them are in a form that would allow me to track down the articles, at least until the newspaper archives get censored, too.