The undersigned members of the GMU Department of Economics express their commitment to academic freedom and to intellectual merit.
American universities have professed allegiance to two ideals. First, the ideal of academic freedom – the right of students and faculty to express any idea in speech or writing, without fear of university punishment, and secure in the knowledge that the university will protect dissenters from threats and violence on campus.
Second, the ideal of intellectual merit – the right and duty of academic departments to hire and promote the most brilliant, creative, and productive faculty in their fields, and admit the most intellectually promising students, without pressures from the administration.
These ideals are the cornerstones of liberal education. They protect faculty and students who hold views unpopular on university campuses. Academic freedom protects existing students and faculty who dissent from current dominant academic opinion and ideology. No matter how unpopular their views, they know the university will protect them. As stated in the University of Chicago Statement on freedom of expression and as quoted in GMU’s “Free Speech at Mason” Statement:
[We must hold a fundamental commitment to] the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.
Intellectual merit protects prospective students and faculty who speak and write against current dominant viewpoints. No matter how unpopular their views, they know that university administration will not obstruct or prejudice their admission, hiring, or promotion.
Recently, both of these ideals have come under attack. Pressure for conformity has intensified and universities have increasingly interfered with departments’ personnel decisions. For example, at some universities, one of the more egregious new practices is the requiring of written “diversity” statements by prospective students, staff, or faculty, then used to discriminate among candidates, often by quarters of the university with interests other than those of the department or unit. Such methods recall arrogations of the past, such as The Levering Act of 1950, used against radicals. Continue reading