Wednesday, October 7, 2020
My Letter to Michael K. Young, President of Texas A&M, in support of the Academic Freedom Rights of Professor Wendy Leo Moore
Dear President Young:
I am a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a scholar who has devoted a great deal of effort to the cause of protecting academic freedom. I myself happen to be a political conservative—an outspoken one. I believe that principles of academic freedom, properly understood, equally protect members of college and university communities (faculty and students alike) irrespective of their political stances or commitments.
My purpose in writing is to urge that the academic freedom rights of Professor Wendy Leo Moore be strictly respected and that no disciplinary action be taken against her for participating in the so-called scholars strike for racial justice. I understand that a memo was circulated in advance of that activity informing faculty that their participation would be deemed a violation of a Texas laws prohibiting strikes by state employees. It seems to me, however, that the so-called strike (with which I myself was not in sympathy) was not the sort of work stoppage contemplated by the laws, or the sort of action that laws could prohibit without running afoul of basic principles of academic freedom. On this score, some of the points made by Jonathan Friedman of PEN America’s campus free speech program seem valid—and compelling—to me.
We live at a time when the academic freedom rights of politically conservative students and professors are frequently violated, or are improperly narrowly interpreted, on campuses around the country. In Professor Moore’s case, however, it is a person on the left end of the ideological spectrum whose rights are under threat. Just as progressives should be speaking out in defense of the rights of conservatives when they are dishonored, conservatives should join in defending the rights of people on the left when their rights are in jeopardy. As I noted, principles of academic freedom, correctly understood and applied, equally protect people of any and all political persuasions. Hence I am writing to add my voice to those asking you to honor fully Professor Moore’s rights to academic freedom.
Robert P. George