OpinionsiLearnIn defense of academic freedom

In defense of academic freedom


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CALIFORNIA, USA — The late University of Chicago Law Prof. Harry Kalven Jr., esteemed American jurist considered as one of the foremost legal scholars of the 20th century, significantly shaped my understanding of academic freedom.

He argued that the university’s realm of inquiry and scrutiny should extend to all facets and values within society.

To fulfill its societal mission, a university must cultivate a unique environment of free inquiry, and remain independent from political trends, emotions, and pressures.

True to its commitment to intellectual exploration, Professor Kalven stated, “a university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.”

This foundational belief underscores why I took a stand when my Alma Mater unilaterally adopted a dogmatic stance against the unsolicited proposal of a Smart City masterplan.

This plan included 5G-based networks, wastewater and solid waste treatment plants, green buildings, the use of renewable energy, promenades, shoreline protection, and reclamation—all aimed at uplifting the economic and environmental life of our city.

In response, I relinquished the Outstanding Sillimanian Award bestowed upon me in 2005.

As a student of development and planning, my studies and experiences have revealed successful models where economic development and environmental mitigation coexist harmoniously.

However, beyond these practical considerations, the preservation of academic freedom holds a special place in my heart.

I ardently believe that the university should stand as a sanctuary of intellectual freedom, perpetually fostering a marketplace of ideas that encourages the exchange and unrestricted flow of diverse perspectives.

Consequently, I cannot endorse an action that not only lacks fairness but also suppresses students, alumni, faculty, and staff—especially those with dissimilar or dissenting views.


Author’s email: efren.padilla@csueastbay.edu



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