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Do university professors and academics have complete freedom of speech? watch

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    Hypothetically, could a university professor, lecturer or member of faculty openly come out with, what could be perceived as, a controversial viewpoint and not have to worry about repression, job loss, or imprisonment?

    For example, say I'm a lecturer one day hoping to become a professor at the university I teach at. And during a public debate being held I openly express anti-Islam, anti-feminist or anti-homosexuality opinions (just random examples), do I have to worry about what that may do for my job prospects? If a bunch of Muslims or feminists were outraged, would that affect my career in any way?

    Surely universities should be places where individuals can entertain controversial ideas without fear of repercussions.
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    (Original post by ddhurst)
    Hypothetically, could a university professor, lecturer or member of faculty openly come out with, what could be perceived as, a controversial viewpoint and not have to worry about repression, job loss, or imprisonment?

    For example, say I'm a lecturer one day hoping to become a professor at the university I teach at. And during a public debate being held I openly express anti-Islam, anti-feminist or anti-homosexuality opinions (just random examples), do I have to worry about what that may do for my job prospects? If a bunch of Muslims or feminists were outraged, would that affect my career in any way?

    Surely universities should be places where individuals can entertain controversial ideas without fear of repercussions.
    In any almost employment if you say something which your colleagues dislike it will harm that career. If you are on tenure track, then you can say and do virtually anything you like short of causing public outrage. If not, then you are in a very precarious situation, such that you would not want to say much that could harm your reputation. I imagine the main way of causing a backlash would be by (i) publishing something controversial, which is very rare; (ii) saying something controversial to your colleagues, which must happen occasionally; or (iii) saying something controversial to your students, which is probably the most common route to damaging one's career. At my undergraduate institution, an economics lecturer made a racist quip which came back at him in the university press, after which he had to formally apologies. I don't imagine that did his career many favours.
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    No. Politically incorrect opinions, if aired, will almost certainly lead to your removal. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Ellis_%28lecturer%29 for instance.
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    Definitely definitely not, which as a liberal, is something I strongly disagree with.

    I can't remember the specific example but I swear the last coalition ended up bringing through some legislation that stopped certain so called 'hate-speakers' from talking in particular universities. It was contentious... if I could remember the case...
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    I think this depends on your field, your reputation and your superiors.

    If a physical scientist came out with those kinds of views then I expect they'd be sent their P45 pretty quickly. If a social scientist wrote an article explaining their stance backed up by solid evidence in a department that encourages exploration rather than towing-the-line then they might be fine.

    I think the distinction is easier to see in the American system of tenure where tenured academics are more or less free to pursue their interests until their contract expires.

    Take Richard Dawkins as an example. As an evolutionary biologist he is very well respected and by use of appropriate evidence he is allowed to write highly controversial books that offend many, yet he still retains his position.
 
 
 

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