There is no more unaccountable group in America today than academics. This is true even when they work for public institutions. This is clearly on display in this story about the American Association of University Professors arrogantly claiming that anyone who seeks to bring academics’ work out into the sunshine threatens their “academic freedom”.
Academics tell us all how important they are and how they need great gobs of funding. But when when the people ask for an accounting of the work and spending, academics declare with great moral outrage that “academic freedom” is under assault by the people wondering where their money went and what is being done and said in their name.
Academics have forgotten that academic freedom isn’t a natural phenomenon, but rather a cultural artifact of the free West that people support because it provides benefits to the greater society.
The ideal of academic freedom rests on an implied contract between the general society and academia. According to this contract academia will use that freedom to explore and question every possible subject from every possible perspective. It’s the same contract we have with scientists. We let scientists poke around into uncomfortable areas as long as they use scientific methodology to do so. We expect academics in non-scientific areas to do the same. We expect that any academic should understand all perspectives on their area of study and that they should be able to make cogent arguments from of those perspectives.
Yet since the 1960s corrupt leftists have hijacked academia to serve their own political interest. They have abandoned their obligation to investigate every perspective and instead have used the power and status of academia to advance their own pet political causes. Indeed, many in academia seem to consider themselves political activists first and foremost and public intellectuals secondarily if at all. Even the very organizational structure of the modern liberal-arts department is built around the leftists’ obsession with race, sex, sexual orientation, imperialism, colonialism, etc. Modern academics actively suppress non-leftists’ perspectives.
If this seems overwrought, just look at the comments to this article. Many posters cannot separate the idea of “unions are good” from the greater responsibilities of academics to the greater society. Clearly, many posters and apparently the AAUP appear to believe that because leftists think unions are good then, therefore, academics have not only the right but the duty to use pubic funds to advance union interests. The AAUP post goes to great lengths to point out that the Landmark organization that made the information request is a conservative organization. Why should that matter? It would only matter to people with a profound leftist political bias themselves.
In short, academics have broken the implied contract. They have abused the freedoms and latitude granted to them by the broader society, for their own selfish and often self-aggrandizing interest. Why should the rest of us grant them any assumption of the privileges of “academic freedom” when they arrogantly refuse to live up to the responsibilities that come with those privileges?
This is simply pure corruption in the public sphere, on the order of using public resources to support specific political campaigns. I think that it is far past the time when we call this behavior out for the corruption that it is and root it out of public universities. If professors want platforms to advance their pet political theories while suppressing dissenting voices, they can do it with private money at private universities. Professors who want public money must accept the responsibility, the expectations of integrity and the accountability that come with public money and public trust.
It’s time for academics to grow up and learn to be accountable.