Free Speech on Campus: The Scope and Limits of Constitutional
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
•Principles of academic freedom are crucial to the success of liberal education and constitutional democracy. These include freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, and due process and equal protection in the adjudication of discipline. Although such principles are universally recognized as central to the university's mission, history has witnessed several lapses, such as during the Red Scare after World War I and the McCarthy era in the 1950s. Historically, the threats to the principles of academic freedom have come from outside the university, and from the Right.
•A new period of repression has arisen since the late 1980s, with the rise of “progressive censorship,” or censorship in the name of promoting progressive goals, such as diversity and sensitivity concerning matters of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Though these ends are worthy, the means universities have chosen to promote these goals—speech codes, broad anti-harassment codes, and unequal application and selective enforcement of university rules—have often had illiberal consequences, violating all of the principles of academic freedom. Intellectual diversity and freedom are casualties of the era of speech codes and progressive censorship.
•Many books have addressed the legal and normative problems caused by political correctness and progressive censorship, but none has fully considered a distinctive political aspect of the problem: the absence of political mobilization by individuals and groups dedicated to the principles of academic freedom.
•Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus fills this void. Although author Donald A. Downs deals with broader aspects of the problem (the importance of academic freedom and liberty principles per se, historical and institutional perspectives, legal and philosophical developments), his primary concern is to show how the presence or absence of political organization and mobilization make a difference in the status of academic freedom principles at universities. Downs deals with theories of political change and political strategies in the politics of civil liberty.