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The Threat to Constitutional Academic Freedom

By J. Peter Byrne


Since the late 1980s, the academic authority of colleges and universities has been subjected to continuing blasts of criticism. Culture warriors portray decayed institutions where sixties radicals have seized control and terrorize students and the few remaining honest faculty with demands for political conformity or bewilder them with incomprehensible theorizing. Some valid criticisms by these writers can be gleaned among their towering hyperbole and tendentious accusations. But the overall effect has been to paint for the broader public an alarming, misleading picture of intolerance and cant. The prevalence of this picture, however false it may be, imperils the constitutional autonomy of colleges and universities protected by the First Amendment. This article argues that increased judicial distrust of academic decision making, operating within a vague and confusing doctrinal framework, imperils the vitality of constitutional academic freedom. It seeks to analyze this threat and vindicate the constitutional propriety of judicial deference to internal academic decision making on matters related to core academic values

Topics: Constitutional Law, Education Law
Publisher: Scholarship @ GEORGETOWN LAW
Year: 2004
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