Academic freedom needs to be defended from government, commercial and religious pressure. A simple enough statement. Surely stating the bleedin’ obvious? Does it really need to be said, and aren’t those battles already won? Well, it turns out that yes, it does, and no, they aren’t.
Those threats appear to be looming large in states across the world, all the way from the USA to India, with many stops in between.
So much so that more than 70 academics, authors and activists globally were keen to sign a statement about academic freedom that Index on Censorship magazine circulated a few weeks ago, and still the signatures keep on coming in.
From South Africa, two university vice-chancellors, Adam Habib from the University of the Witwatersrand and Max Price from the University of Cape Town; from Kenya, the poet Philo Ikonya; from Ireland, a raft of academics who are worried about commercial pressure drowning out research need and exploration; from Turkey Esra Arsan from Istanbul Bilgi University; and in the UK academics including Thomas Docherty from the University of Warwick and Sarah Churchwell from the University of East Anglia, along with many from the USA, plus writers including Julian Baggini, Christie Watson, Kamila Shamsie and Monica Ali.
The battle for ideas to be freely discussed seems to split into two battalions; one using soft power and safe space, the other using hard power and physical threats. <Read more.>