Who are we?
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of some 200 academics who teach in 20 California institutions. The group formed as a response to various violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks have been aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities. Our goal of protecting California Scholars based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope to include threats to academic freedom across the United States, and where relevant, globally as well. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.
Academic freedom has come under increasing threat in the twenty-first century. Right-wing groups have targeted the university as a dangerous place that promotes critical thinking and controversial scholarship. Right-wing individuals, foundations and institutes have sponsored and funded these attacks, with the goal to discredit the critical thinking and intense debate essential to the mission of the university. They want to replace them with a focus on conservative pedagogy, civility and vocational training.
The university produces knowledge and practice critical to the operations of a democracy. The ideal of academic freedom is at the core of the university in a democratic society.
Academic freedom is a cornerstone of education in a free society. Its definition includes such items as what are called ‘the four essential freedoms’ of a university, to determine, on academic grounds, who will teach, what they may teach, how they teach and who may study. Academic freedom requires that faculty and students can participate in intellectual debate free of any censorship or retaliation. Central to academic freedom is that the political, religious, or philosophical beliefs of others, including politicians, administrators and members of the public shall not be imposed on students or faculty.