Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Cost of Academic Freedom

Here’s a follow up to an earlier story about a counseling student at Eastern Michigan University who was dismissed from the program because she referred a gay client to another counselor because of her religious beliefs. After filing suit, she was awarded $75,000.

We are often told that academic institutions of higher learning are supposed to be places of freedom. One of the frequent knocks against some Christian colleges is that there is no academic freedom, that you have to agree with the positions established.

Of course, what honest people know is that is par for the course at just about any academic institution. It’s part of the culture of intolerance that has been created and sustained.

It’s a bizarre and troubling world when people aren’t allowed to practice even basic freedoms of their discipline (including referring clients to other practitioners), and the academic intelligentsia is above questioning.

EMU doubled down by asserting that “The faculty retains its right to establish, in its learned judgment, the curriculum and program requirements for the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University.”

It’s learned judgment? By whose estimation? It is likely by the estimation of a MAS (a mutual admiration society). It’s a group where “learned” is defined by “agrees with me.”

It is interesting to imagine why EMU settled this case out of court. One can’t help but wonder if it’s not because of the danger that they envisioned, not just financially, but academically.

My guess is that the courts generally have a sympathy for religious objections, and a loss in the courts would mean that the “learned judgment” of the faculty is determined not to be so learned after all. The outcome would be that the university would no longer be able to establish these requirements that limit freedom.

$75,000 (of either insurance or state money) is a small price to pay for “academic freedom.”

One of the most instructive parts of this article are the comments where the student is repeatedly attacked and called names for her beliefs. Nothing quite like tolerance. It reminds us that tolerance means about the same thing as “learned judgment” means—agrees with me.

In reality, it seems to me she did the proper thing—she referred a client to someone she believed could better help them. Isn’t that what we expect out of doctors and counselors?

Shouldn’t we admire a doctor or counselor who says, “Someone else is better equipped to help you here”"?

My guess is that these same people who complain that she referred the client would also complain if she counseled the client.

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