Legal scholars Finkin and Post expound the principles of academic freedom as understood in the USA, drawing on the history of the AAUP and — especially — on the records of the AAUP’s Committee A, which investigates alleged violations of academic freedom. The authors argue that the decisions of the AAUP function as a body of case law governing future investigations in a way broadly similar to the legal principle of stare decisis (precedent). Finkin and Post are at pains to distinguish this body of case law, which governs the academic profession’s understanding of academic freedom, from the constitutional case law that defines the U.S. government’s understanding of academic freedom. They are even more careful to distinguish this professional, institutional concept of academic freedom from the general right of freedom of expression which is supposed to be guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and included in broad conceptions of the open, liberal society. Finkin and Post assert that academic freedom protects primarily not the individual rights of scholars, but the right of society as a whole to have a self-regulating “professoriat” that sets and enforces its own internal norms, while leaving its members free from normatively unjustified constraints such as the common prejudices of society as a whole. Such a professoriat is valued as a source of knowledge, and for this reason is granted freedoms that would not be granted indiscriminately to individuals in the larger society.
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