Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

For the common good

By David Hollinger

When academia is under such enormous pressure from a variety of political forces, it is bracing to read For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (Yale University Press, 2009), by Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post. This cogent, accessible defense of the political autonomy of universities is the most ambitious and convincing treatise on academic freedom written since the great days of John Dewey and Arthur O. Lovejoy, the founders of the American Association of University Professors. Finkin, a law professor at Illinois, is a long-time expert on this topic, as is Post, who is now the Dean of the Yale Law School. Finkin and Post emphasize the difference between academic freedom doctrine and free speech doctrine, and they vindicate academic professionalism with a lucidity and verve that is very much needed at this time. Many Berkeley people will remember Post, who taught in our law school for many years before moving to Yale.