On 26 February Stephen Balch, Chairman, National Association of Scholars and a member of the AHI’s board of directors, received the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award, sponsored by the Bradley Foundation. Dr. Balch received this distinguished award in Washington D. C. at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The award “recognizes the promotion and defense of academic freedom and individual liberties at institutions of higher learning” in the United States.
In his acceptance speech Dr. Balch made several telling points about academic freedom. It is a “profound mistake,” he stressed, to consider academic freedom as some kind of private property owned exclusively by members of the academy. “Academic freedom belongs to the people of America, who, through a variety of corporate bodies . . . bestow it upon university and college faculties.”
Thus, the argument that, say, the Ward Churchill or Susan Rosenberg affairs at Hamilton College should have remained subjects of in-house debate, outside of public purview, for Hamilton College stakeholders only, cannot stand serious intellectual scrutiny. Academic freedom, as the great University of Chicago sociologist Edward Shils reminds us, grew out of a public recognition that scholars should be protected seekers of the truth. Academic freedom represents a qualified right on campus for genuine scholars, not a license for activists to use there lectern as a pulpit. Academic freedom, Shils maintained, “postulates the possibility of arriving at truthful statements and of discriminating among statements as to their truthfulness in the light of evidence which is available to assess them.” Put another way, academic freedom does not protect an economist teaching as gospel the labor theory of value or an ethnic studies professor’s fabricating of evidence to preach a pet theory about the alleged genocide of Indians at the hands of white settlers.
The founders and friends of the AHI heartily congratulate Steve on adding yet another impressive pelt to his collection.