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May 10, 2008

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jerry

I think if you make academic freedom not some right, but subject to some sort of self-regulated standards, you strip it of much of any good power it has.

I would treat it differently. First, few people seem to discuss the relationship of tenure and academic freedom. Do professors without tenure have any claim to academic freedom? If so, why do we need tenure? And then second, I would look at the different context in history when we needed a strong academic freedom. In a world of think tanks, of open source journals and organizations like PLOS, in a world of home 1Terabyte servers, and relatively inexpensive bandwidth, do we still need a strong form of tenure? Would an academic's ability to research and speak be threatened in a world of no tenure, or a world of a restricted tenure?

I think if John Yoo were fired on Monday, he would have a new office at a sympathetic think tank on Tuesday. I think if John Yoo's speech were restricted at Berkeley that he could speak as much as he wants using free Google Pages at the cost of a cup of coffee now and then. And I think that is true of most Ph.D level academics.

I think tenure for life should be trashed, and instead we should grant time limited tenures instead. Tenure should be for six year terms. Granted only upon application. And extended only on extensive review.

If the majority of academics were honest, they would probably agree that very few academics have used tenure for its intended purpose: a guarantee of academic freedom. Certain fields almost certainly never require tenure. I have a hard time understanding why an Art Historian requires a lifetime tenure much less a time limited tenure. I have a hard time understanding why economists should be granted a lifetime tenure. Most academic economists are helping prop up the powers that be, hence the "battle" between orthodox and heterodox economists. But I can see granting some economists a limited six year term of tenure. The test being a judgment if an academics' research is somehow politically unpopular in her field.

Tenure should never be given out to an academic merely because they have tenure at some other university. Tenure should never be given out on some fast track basis. Tenure is a grant of access to the public's wallet and so tenure decisions should have some element of community support in addition to departmental support.

How would I handle Yoo? Fuck it, what Yoo did occurred while he was NOT employed by UC Berkeley. His acts were not research. His acts in formulating policy went beyond speech. His tenure does not protect him. To the extent that his memos were written down and available, it should be freakin' trivial for the Law School to put together a panel of his peers to evaluate if his writings were competent, incompetent, or immoral. And if incompetent or immoral, shit can the guy.

If the Law School cannot put together a panel that can evaluate his legal writings, they should just shut down.

Why o why can't we get some honest academics?

David Lloyd-Jones

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Brad's and Crooked Timber's notion of academic freedom seems to me excessively post-Mill: they justify it by its usefulness to society.

This strikes me a ahistorical, utterly untrue to how things actually came about, and hence to what its real meaning is.

It seems to me that "academic freedom" is a slogan used by academics to pretty up their hard-won guild privilege, that of being pretty much left alone by the King, the Bishop and to a large extent the local money-holders. On this last of the three, people who remember that FUCK stands for "Freedom Under Clark Kerr" will see that despite its pristine historicity, this notion of things is somewhat out of date in California.

Still, if we assume that academic freedom is won by academics against the rest of the world, I see no reason why academics might not say that one of their guild-mates is no longer living up to the standards of the guild -- and is therefore out of the game.

In the case of the evil John Yoo, of course, I don't find all this academic talk very useful. It seems to me he is simply a common thug and should be prosecuted and jailed as such. Let him keep his tenure: no doubt the cons at Lompoc, or its Hague equivalent, will be impressed.

FWIW, I see the guy has published something of the order of 400 papers on his whacko theory of Presidential powers -- all of which hang on a weird and distorted riff on an offhand remark of Hamilton's. Forget tenure and all that: surely this awful record is enough to have his undergraduate degree recalled.


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Lloyd Schaffer

When you write that John Woo shouldn't be fired for "political activities that take place outside the workplace" you are making a fundamental error. John Woo was not hired at the OLC to engage in political activities. He was hired to render the best legal advice he could on the constitutionality and the legality of proposed government actions. The question is did he do that honestly and ethically to the standards of his profession.

If I hire a lawyer to advise me on campaign finance law while running for office that lawyers obligation is to tell me what the law is and not what is in my political interest. If I hire a somebody to serve a campaign advice who happens to be a lawyer then the lawyer is serving in political activities and is ethically, morally and legally free to give me any type of advice desired. John You was hired as a lawyer not a political advisor.

Lloyd Schaffer

When you write that John Woo shouldn't be fired for "political activities that take place outside the workplace" you are making a fundamental error. John Woo was not hired at the OLC to engage in political activities. He was hired to render the best legal advice he could on the constitutionality and the legality of proposed government actions. The question is did he do that honestly and ethically to the standards of his profession.

If I hire a lawyer to advise me on campaign finance law while running for office that lawyers obligation is to tell me what the law is and not what is in my political interest. If I hire a somebody to serve a campaign advice who happens to be a lawyer then the lawyer is serving in political activities and is ethically, morally and legally free to give me any type of advice desired. John You was hired as a lawyer not a political advisor.

Lloyd Schaffer

When you write that John Woo shouldn't be fired for "political activities that take place outside the workplace" you are making a fundamental error. John Woo was not hired at the OLC to engage in political activities. He was hired to render the best legal advice he could on the constitutionality and the legality of proposed government actions. The question is did he do that honestly and ethically to the standards of his profession.

If I hire a lawyer to advise me on campaign finance law while running for office that lawyers obligation is to tell me what the law is and not what is in my political interest. If I hire a somebody to serve a campaign advice who happens to be a lawyer then the lawyer is serving in political activities and is ethically, morally and legally free to give me any type of advice desired. John You was hired as a lawyer not a political advisor.

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