Academic Freedom on ‘Trial’: 100 Years of Sifting and Winnowing at the University of Wisconsin – Madison

Edited by W. Lee Hansen

Office of University Publications

University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998

“Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”
– taken from a report of the Board of Regents in 1894

As the debate continues over the merits of speech codes and restrictions on language and conduct, Academic Freedom on Trial examines the landmark Richard T. Ely case at the University of Wisconsin. A collection of essays and comments by economists, historians, writers, and legal experts, along with university faculty administrators, and students, this book offers an important historical perspective, as well as critical analysis of current challenges to freedom of expression. Thirty contributors examine the origins of the Board of Regents’ statement and its meaning today, including issues of free speech, hate speech codes, due process, and intellectual property rights.

In a world of increased academic specialization, weakened institutional citizenship, and busy professional and personal lives, it is important to remember that the benefits of academic freedom enjoyed by faculty members, and too often taken for granted, have not always prevailed in American higher education. These hard-earned benefits — freedom of inquiry, freedom of teaching, and freedom of speech and actions as citizens — are essential to the academic enterprise.

Clearly, the hard-won principle of academic freedom cannot be taken for granted. It must be guarded continuously and zealously if university faculty, administrators, staff, and students, as well as the State of Wisconsin and its citizens are to benefit from a shared commitment to the “constant and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth shall be found.”

There can be no academic freedom without due process, but… due process is indivisible. If, on a college or university campus, there is no substantive due process for students, the atmosphere is hardly likely to be supportive of substantive due process for professors… A campus that violates students’ free speech is not a healthy environment for the free speech of teachers.”
– Nat Hentoff, author of Free Speech for Thee but Not for Me

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View Table of Contents and Editor’s Introduction (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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