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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2003

Academic Bankruptcy

I wish to register my protest against CAUT's support for the AAUP plan to censure the University of South Florida in the case of Sami Al-Arian (Bulletin, June 2003). This is a singularly unwise course of action. It has so little to do with academic freedom that if the implied policy of the AAUP (and so also of CAUT) were to be followed through consistently, it would, in fact, amount to the total discrediting of academic freedom.

Academic freedom is not meant to allow the freedom to plan, organize and help enact (Islamist) terrorism against the United States, Israel or any other Western liberal democratic country. A professor who uses his freedom in the university to conceal his terrorist activities is committing the ultimate abuse of academic freedom. This is something that should be absolutely clear to us.

Even to have such serious charges laid against a professor, in a free society governed by law, is to render him unfit for any association with a free university while the trial is being conducted, since a free university is duty-bound to distance itself from a man actively at war with the free society on which the university and its academic freedom depend. If Al-Arian is exonerated, let him apply for readmission subsequent to the trial. But until then, let there be no doubts on which side professors stand - against terrorism and against those who would destroy our societies and our universities by bloodshed and atrocity in the name of "religious" totalitarianism.

Indeed, it is not the mere use of unpopular words with which he is charged. However, fidelity to our academic principles should also forbid us from lending support to those who engage in actions which even actively and criminally propagandize in favour of such (Islamist) terrorism. These charges cross a line which should make it impossible for us
to defend a professor who has apparently declared war on the university itself, and with it on all academic freedom.

By uncritically defending Al-Arian and by considering a censure of the University of South Florida, in the face of "a 50-count, 121-page indictment implicating the professor in a lengthy and elaborate terrorism conspiracy," (The Weekly Standard), AAUP (and so also CAUT) would, in effect, be declaring academic bankruptcy, if not committing academic suicide. It would be both a literal and a figurative expression of the treason of the intellectuals.

Kenneth Hart Green
Study of Religion, University of Toronto