Adjuncts, Social Media, and Academic Freedom

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Inside Higher Ed has an article today called “Adjuncts Under Fire?” which looks at academic freedom in some recent cases of adjuncts suffering for posts to social media or appearances in the media.

The article mostly looks at this from an “academic freedom” perspective.  I would argue that there is something bigger here than academic freedom.  The things posted by Lars Maischak (“To save American democracy, Trump must hang.  The sooner and the higher, the better. #TheResistance #DeathToFascism”) and by Kevin Allred (he said he wished someone “would just shoot [Trump] outright.”) are felonious utterances under the United States Code Title 18, Section 871.  (For a quick overview of this statute see here.)  Not surprising this is not the first time Allred has paid a price for his tweets.

We have robust free speech laws in this country, though that just means that there is no prior restraint to your speech.  The has always been limits to what can be said without the possibility of being punished afterwards.  I do not think that these cases make good examples of restricted academic freedom.  They sound more like academics not wanting to take responsibility for felonious (and thus not protected) speech.  These are educated people who know the power of words (presumably they can express there opposition to someone without calling for someone’s murder), though they argue they should not be taken literally.

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Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, and heads an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.

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