SAR United States

Session III: Right to be Wrong?: When Academic Audiences Object to Academic Expression

A professor of economics at Lehigh University shares a video titled “Three Myths Concerning Poverty” which soon draws criticism from faculty and students regarding his analysis of poverty and race. Similarly, a New York University professor whose article, originally published in the Springer Nature journal, Society, draws condemnation from faculty and others across the United States.

Everyone agrees that academic freedom protects a scholar’s right to articulate novel, controversial, challenging, or even offensive ideas. Or maybe not? Many argue that some ideas are too offensive, even harmful, especially when they perpetuate historical injustices. Are some ideas too offensive? If yes, how do we know which ones? Who decides? Using the case examples as a jumping off point, we will discuss scenarios where academic expression is challenged as too offensive for academic freedom protection.

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