Higher Education’s Amy Wax Problem | Higher Ed Gamma – Inside Higher Ed

by | Jul 31, 2022 | Education

When I was a junior faculty member, I considered the word professional one of those value-laden terms that could be invoked to disparage anyone who didn’t fit in.To criticize someone as unprofessional struck me as a much too easy way to attack colleagues on the basis of their ideas, demeanor, or even their appearance. 
As I’ve grown older, my position has changed.  I’ve grown more sensitive to the ways that faculty can abuse their professional status: not only to bully, harass, and intimidate, but to justify virtually anything they might say or do.
I now believe there is a right to expect professionalism among our colleagues – even though that concept’s meaning isn’t crystal clear or self-evident.
I much enjoyed Jonathan Zimmerman’s recent Inside Higher Ed essay entitled “My Amy Wax Problem,” which I consider among the most insightful, thoughtful, and balanced arguments I’ve read on the limits to free speech in the academy.  
His argument — that academic freedom protects Amy Wax’s right to speak her mind, but not to demean or discriminate against individual students – is a striking example of the balance and nuance that Professor Zimmerman brings to discussions of key educational controversies, whether these involve sex education, poor teaching, or free speech.
And yet, even though I agree with Professor Zimmerman’s argument in this particular instance, I do think there are several tough issues that deserve further scrutiny. 
One of those issues strikes me as relatively easy:  To what extent should college and university administrators denounce faculty behavior that they view as inappropriate or worse prior to a finding b …

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