“Gwen Gale,” Wikipedia Censor and “Vandal” on Academic Freedom

The word “vandal” is meant as a cyberspace term to indicate indiscriminate deleting of material from various webpages and as a censor in her efforts to ideologically control content on what is supposed to be a value-neutral website. I will continue to unmask the facade of neutrality as professors and others hopefully reassess the value of Wikipedia in both content and administration. This individual banished me from Wikipedia and from contributing this blog to their error-ridden bibliography and shoddy entry on “academic freedom.”

I would be less outraged at this arrogance were it by a specialist as opposed to an ideologue who repeatedly insults me with names as if she were immune from criticism: “Radical,” “Polemicist,” “Marxist” propagandist. You know the usual ad hominems from a reactionary who hides behind her labyrinthine maze of Wikipedia occultism. By the way I offered her an opportunity offline to e-mail me and to conduct a civil discourse over this and did not get a response. So the struggle continues.

This is what Gwen Gale wrote on her blog “Talk” page about academic freedom. I think it displays a rather elementary comprehension of what academic freedom means. I do not expect her to be a specialist but challenge her credentials in banning me from contributing to the academic freedom entry on Wikipedia. That is their loss, not mine. This blog I assure you gets many more hits daily than the academic freedom entry on Wikipedia but I admit this is not a competition but a struggle for free speech and the end of censorship. Her commentary on academic freedom:

“Says he’s a “tenured, full professor at St Xavier University” but he seems to have muddled Wikipedia, which is a private encyclopedia website with sourcing and behaviour rules grown through consensus and supported by its private owners (the WmF), with what he thinks is the “Wikipedia Academic Freedom Site.” I don’t know what he means by academic freedom. In a free market, folks should be able to teach and learn what they please, which also means each private school in a free market would be able to choose wholly on their own whether to offer their teachers and students whatever they thought “academic freedom” might be, swayed only by their own goals, means and whatever market tides might flow upon them. As for state funded schools, any notion of academic freedom is but a lie: The lack sometimes helpful, but often utterly unhelpful and misleading. Does he know his IP was blocked only for edit warring (over a link which didn’t meet WP:EL and nothing else? I’d think he must have read the block notice. Or is he rather stirring things up with a bit of handy polemic propaganda? :) Gwen Gale (talk) 14:09, 10 November 2008 (UTC)”

First of all Wikipedia is not private if it allows access on the Internet to 100,000s of contributors. It is not an intranet vehicle but public in any legal sense of the term. A private restaurant that allows the public to eat cannot discriminate on the basis of private ownership. Wikipedia solicits public input and one cannot shirk its ethical responsibility to be fair and open regardless of its private ownership. Yes it certainly has the right to restrict content if it is inappropriate, irrelevant, unprofessional or libelous but not absolute control given its public nature. The issue of being private has no standing here; it does not require a login password and domain for its users and visitors.

In the United States, academic freedom is NOT restricted to private colleges and universities but applies to state-funded schools as well. The American Association of University Professors’ 1915 and 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure make very few distinctions on the nature of the university in which academic freedom should prevail. Yes there is a provision that with faith-based universities or colleges, some attenuation of academic freedom may be allowed if CLEARLY SPELLED OUT at the time of one’s appointment. Yet in 1970 AAUP downplayed this allowance and requires academic freedom across the academy.

Ms Gale wrote: a “private school in a free market would be able to choose wholly on their own whether to offer their teachers and students whatever they thought “academic freedom” might be, swayed only by their own goals, means and whatever market tides might flow upon them.” This would utterly destroy the concept of academic freedom which is to prevent administrations from arbitrary interference in the teaching, scholarship and extramural [public] utterances of a professor. Academic freedom is not parochial; it is national in scope and application.

Tenure, which is not present in British universities for example, is construed as the sine qua non for academic freedom. If one does not have tenure, one can be fired as an at will employee. With tenure one can only be fired for cause: incompetence, non-performance of duties, moral turpitude and bona fide financial exigency. Gwen Gale misconstrues the essence of academic freedom which is the right of professors to teach in their own name; the right of professors to conduct research and publish their findings without fear of retribution; the right of professors to engage in extramural [public] utterances and activities without censorship or SUSPENSION, or dismissal unless it clearly indicates a lack of capacity to fulfill one’s professional duties.

Gwen Gail again writes: “As for state funded schools, any notion of academic freedom is but a lie:” In the United States this would be a catastrophe and the concept could not exist. A University of Illinois professor or a University of Missouri professor is entitled to the same academic freedom as a professor at Washington University in St. Louis or Saint Louis University or Grinnell College. While it is true some state legislatures are eager to attenuate this concept through funding reductions and sporadic attempts to implement David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights, (ABOR), academic freedom is undergirded by tenure and applies to professors at both private and public universities.

In Keyishian v. Board of Regents and Sweezy v. New Hampshire, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the principle of academic freedom. This is not a casual concept but one developed almost a century ago by AAUP and given constitutional muster by the court.

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