A "Comparative" Analysis of the Academic Freedom of Public University Professors

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One of the topics we have been asked to address at this symposium is the academic freedom enjoyed by faculty at public universities. Now is a good time to be discussing this topic, and the University of North Carolina (“UNC”) is a particularly apt place at which to be discussing it. As would two other places I’ve spent professional time at recently—the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (“U of I”), where I became the Dean of the College of Law this year, and the University of California system (“UC”), where I spent my academic career until this fall. Indeed, given the dust-ups here at UNC, the controversy surrounding the (non)hiring of Steven Salaita at the U of I, and the UC Office of the President’s guidance concerning, and possible definitions of, microaggressions, it is fair to say these three great public universities lie at the epicenter of the conflict between freedom of expression and the orderly operation of public higher education.

In my (necessarily) abbreviated contribution on this topic, I’d like to examine the breadth of so-called “academic freedom” enjoyed by (even fully tenured) faculty at public universities by comparing the scope of liberties of public professors with relevant counterparts. For these purposes, I focus primarily on the liberties enjoyed by virtue of the federal Constitution—freedoms that arise from state constitutions or contract law are important to be sure, but they fall largely outside of my remarks today.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293
Number of pages7
JournalNorth Carolina Law Review
StatePublished - 2016


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