Academic freedom and tenure: some further thoughts (Donncha Kavanagh) « University Blog

…The state then, as argued by Kant in 1798, has a duty to protect in order to enhance if not ensure the rule of reason in public life, while the university has commensurate duty to counter the excesses of the state and its desires.

… neither should one be in thrall to academic freedom, or use it to simply buttress selfish desires for permanent employment and security. In this regard, I think academic freedom should not always be bundled together with the concept of ‘permanency’ (which varies in meaning depending on context). …

… If academic freedom is a meaningful privilege that comes with real responsibilities, it must have an elitist dimension, which means that there needs to be a robust process to determine who is accorded this freedom (qua responsibility). …

See also Stephen Mennell and Paddy Healy Defending academic freedom (Letter, Irish Times, 1 February 2011):

the debate on academic freedom … concerns the freedom of the academic expert to speak the truth in the public interest. That freedom is underpinned by the right to in the Universities Act (1997).

Ferdinand von Prondzynski Lack of trust is the biggest threat to our academic freedom
(column, Irish Times, 1 February 2011):

If we are serious about exploiting the smart economy, we need to build up understanding between our academics and the public. … the Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform concluded last year … suggest[s] that working conditions for academics need to be reviewed and new contracts introduced. This has been seen by some … as the start of an erosion of intellectual freedom and individual autonomy and the introduction of corporate-style management and controls. Initial draft negotiation plans by some universities have reinforced those suspicions.

The Irish Universities Association, however, has emphasised that this is not what is being planned. Chief executive Ned Costello told me:

The review of the contract is concerned with ensuring that the normal obligations of a staff member in relation to issues such as attendance, annual leave and performance management and development are observed. It is not about constraining freedom of inquiry, which is a foundation stone of our university system. It is about consolidating the good practice which already exists in the sector.

… A new bond of trust needs to be re-established between our third level and the country, and this needs to work both ways. It means that our politicians and opinion-formers must stop the constant barrage of unsubstantiated criticisms of the sector (bearing in mind that individual anecdotes are not evidence of an overall problem). The sector itself must accept that we now live in an age where we all have to be seen to be accountable, and that reform is unavoidable, including some mechanism for identifying and dealing with under-performance where it occurs.

And all sides have to re-commit themselves to intellectual integrity and academic freedom, in the service of national regeneration.

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