by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Martin Center offers a third opinion today on the link between scholarship and activism among college faculty members. John Wilson defends activist-scholars.
Should we allow scholars to be activists? Fabio Rojas (“Scholarship First, Activism Second”) and Jay Schalin (“Scholarship Only, Activism on Your Own Time”) have offered various degrees of attack on activist-scholars. My perspective is very different: I defend the activist-scholar and argue that universities must make a stand of neutrality toward all political speech, including activist scholarship, in order to protect both academic freedom and the pursuit of truth. …
… Not all activists are one-sided and dogmatic. Many traditional scholars are one-sided and dogmatic (for example, in opposing activist views). And academic freedom must also protect one-sided professors, so long as they do not violate the rights of others.
Activism is the pursuit of truth, but one aimed at making change as well. But there is no evidence that activists are worse scholars than those opposed to activism. The idea of denying academic freedom rights to anyone deemed an “activist” is extremely dangerous because it can be used to target political dissenters.