(NCR) Conference discusses modern challenges, threats to academic freedom

My article “Conference discusses modern challenges, threats to academic freedom” (with sidebar “What is ‘Academic Freedom?'”) appears in National Catholic Reporter.

Here’s the lede of the article:

SOUTH BEND, IND. Temperatures dropped as gusting winds swept across leaf-carpeted, sun-bathed paths on the University of Notre Dame’s scenic campus. In the McKenna Hall Conference Center, however, hot coffee flowed like wine, and about 100 scholars from across the U.S. and overseas hammered out the contours of a complicated concept called “academic freedom” and how it could and should operate at Catholic colleges and universities.

A 10,000-foot overview, which conference organizer Kenneth Garcia, associate director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, laid out in the first session, amounted to a consensus that came up repeatedly in interviews with participants.
The rough sketch goes as follows: Blame should be heaped on dogmatic, religious administrative shoulders for creating the need in the early 20th century for the American Association of University Professors to create and enforce academic freedom policies that would protect scholarly inquiry from outside meddling.

But, the historical argument continues, the pendulum has since swung in the opposite direction, and the strictly disciplinary structure of the academy now prohibits faculty members from incorporating theology in their teaching.

“We all know that the principles of academic freedom and the confessional commitments of religiously affiliated universities do not always mix well. Tensions go back centuries and continue today,” said Garcia, opening “Transcending Orthodoxies: Re-examining Academic Freedom in Religiously Affiliated Universities,” which was held Oct. 29-Nov. 1.

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