“Enforcing the First Amendment on Campus Won’t, by Itself, Address the Problem of Academic Freedom”
I had a conversation with Prof. Anup Malani (University of Chicago Law School) about this at a conference, and asked him if he could write up his thoughts on the subject; he kindly agreed, so I’m passing them along:
A common view among those who worry about academic freedom (which includes this author) is that what we need is more universities to follow the University of Chicago’s lead and adopt the so-called “Chicago Principles.” This approach is roughly the equivalent of a decision by schools functionally to enforce the First Amendment on campus. This policy reform practically includes both not censoring viewpoints and prohibiting people from shouting down and thus shutting out others’ speech.
These reforms are necessary, but not sufficient to address the challenge to academic freedom on campus or freedom of speech in society. The reason is that it fails to understand what colleges produce and how that affects academic freedom and civil society.
The conventional (economic) view of the university is that it produces a basket of goods: specific human capital (in your major), general human capital (learning to learn), signaling quality (from the admission itself), a network (your colleagues in your class). But omitted in common accounts is that a university also produces a “culture” that materially impacts life on campus and amongst graduates after graduation.
Culture is a hard-to-define concept. Let me use an analogy to game theory to flesh out what I mean by it. We think of a game as being defined by, among other things, (a) the set of permitted actions or strategies and (b) a set of payoffs from different combinations of actions. (I omit from the elements of a well-specified model (c) who the players are and (d) the equilibrium concept used to deduce the possible outcomes of the game.) Many games permit multiple equilibria. Which equilibrium is observed depends on players’ beliefs about what they believe others will do in response to their actions, what they believe others believe, what others believe about what they believe, and so on.
Often the payoffs, which map player’s actions to utility, are said to be the rules of the game. And we analogize institutions, in economic or political science parlance, to the organizations setting and enforcing the rules or conflate institutions and laws with the rules themselves.
Culture, by contrast, is the recursive beliefs of players. It is w
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