by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Emily Chamlee-Wright explores campus free-speech issues in a Martin Center column.
Many seem to be groping for some sort of “third way” that affords freedom without destroying civility; some paradigm of speech governance that allows for the free exchange of ideas that leads to learning, without the anarchic “anything goes” mentality of an unregulated marketplace of ideas.
The third way that so many of us are searching for is right in front of us: it rests with the gatekeeping authority vested in every professor holding an appointment at an American institution of higher learning. This third way is a bottom-up regulation of speech on campus rather than a mythical “no regulation” marketplace or a top-down regulation of the “order and morality” crowd. …
… The same is true in the academy where the faculty provide the most basic form of bottom-up regulatory discipline. In their choices of readings, guest speakers, and research topics, academics select what comes into and out of the classroom, university public spaces, and scholarly research. The gatekeeping authority I describe here is a regulatory process—a process grounded in the fact that faculty possess the disciplinary expertise and local knowledge of their institution needed to render informed judgment. Given the importance of reputation in higher education, faculty have a strong incentive to consider their choices carefully and to exercise sound judgment. Peer review of teaching and scholarship serve as other sources of bottom-up regulatory discipline within and across the academy.