Academic freedom

Academic freedom is a moral and legal concept expressing the conviction that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment. While the core of academic freedom covers scholars acting in an academic capacity - as teachers or researchers expressing strictly scholarly viewpoints -, an expansive interpretation extends these occupational safeguards to scholars' speech on matters outside their professional expertise. It is a type of freedom of speech.
Academic freedom is a contested issue and, therefore, has limitations in practice. In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure" of the American Association of University Professors, teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matters that are unrelated to the subject discussed. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for causes such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself.

Historical background

Although the notion of academic freedom has a long implicit history, the idea was first clearly formulated in response to the encroachments of the totalitarian state on science and academia in general for the furtherance of its own goals. For instance, in the Soviet Union, scientific research was brought under strict political control in the 1930s. A number of research areas were declared "bourgeois pseudoscience" and forbidden, notably genetics and sociology. The trend toward subjugating science to the interests of the state also had proponents in the West, including the influential Marxist John Desmond Bernal, who published The Social Function of Science in 1939.
In contrast to this approach, Michael Polanyi argued that a structure of liberty is essential for the advancement of science – that the freedom to pursue science for its own sake is a prerequisite for the production of knowledge through peer review and the scientific method.
In 1936, as a consequence of an invitation to give lectures for the Ministry of Heavy Industry in the USSR, Polanyi met Bukharin, who told him that in socialist societies all scientific research is directed to accord with the needs of the latest five-year plan. Demands in Britain for centrally planned scientific research led Polanyi, together with John Baker, to found the influential Society for Freedom in Science. The society promoted a liberal conception of science as free enquiry against the instrumental view that science should exist primarily to serve the needs of society.
In a series of articles, re-published in The Contempt of Freedom and The Logic of Liberty, Polanyi claimed that co-operation amongst scientists is analogous to the way in which agents co-ordinate themselves within a free market. Just as consumers in a free market determine the value of products, science is a spontaneous order that arises as a consequence of open debate amongst specialists. Science can therefore only flourish when scientists have the liberty to pursue truth as an end in itself:


Proponents of academic freedom believe that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy. They argue that academic communities are repeatedly targeted for repression due to their ability to shape and control the flow of information. When scholars attempt to teach or communicate ideas or facts that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities, they may find themselves targeted for public vilification, job loss, imprisonment, or even death. For example, in North Africa, a professor of public health discovered that his country's infant mortality rate was higher than government figures indicated. He lost his job and was imprisoned.
The fate of biology in the Soviet Union is also cited as a reason why society has an interest in protecting academic freedom. A Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko rejected Western science – then focused primarily on making advances in theoretical genetics, based on research with the fruit fly – and proposed a more socially relevant approach to farming that was based on the collectivist principles of dialectical materialism. Lysenko's ideas proved appealing to the Soviet leadership, in part because of their value as propaganda, and he was ultimately made director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Subsequently, Lysenko directed a purge of scientists who professed "harmful ideas", resulting in the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists. Lysenko's ideas were then implemented on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. Famines that resulted partly from Lysenko's influence are believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.
AFAF of the United Kingdom is a campaign for lecturers, academic staff and researchers who want to make a public statement in favour of free enquiry and free expression. Their statement of Academic Freedom has two main principles:
  1. that academics, both inside and outside the classroom, have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive, and
  2. that academic institutions have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom by members of their staff, or to use it as grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal.
AFAF and those who agree with its principles believe that it is important for academics to be able not only to express their opinions, but also to put them to scrutiny and to open further debate. They are against the idea of telling the public Platonic "noble lies" and believe that people need not be protected from radical views.

For academic staff

The concept of academic freedom as a right of faculty members is an established part of most legal systems. While in the United States the constitutional protection of academic freedom derives from the guarantee of free speech under the First Amendment, the constitutions of other countries typically grant a separate right to free learning, teaching, and research.


During the interwar years Canadian academics were informally expected to be apolitical, lest they bring trouble to their respective universities which, at the time, were very much dependent upon provincial government grants. As well, many Canadian academics of the time considered their position to be remote from the world of politics and felt they had no place getting involved in political issues. However, with the increase of socialist activity in Canada during the Great Depression, due to the rise of social gospel ideology, some left-wing academics began taking active part in contemporary political issues outside the university. Thus, individuals such as Frank H. Underhill at the University of Toronto and other members or affiliates with the League for Social Reconstruction or the socialist movement in Canada who held academic positions, began to find themselves in precarious positions with their university employers. Frank H. Underhill, for example, faced criticism from within and without academia and near expulsion from his university position for his public political comments and his involvement with the League for Social Reconstruction and the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation. According to Michiel Horn this era marked,

United Kingdom

The Robbins Report on Higher Education, commissioned by the British government and published in 1963, devoted a full chapter, Chapter XVI, to Academic freedom and its scope. This gives a detailed discussion of the importance attached both to freedom of individual academics and of the institution itself. In a world, both then and now, where illiberal governments are all too ready to attack freedom of expression, the Robbins committee saw the statutory protection given to academic freedom as giving some protection for society as a whole from any temptation to mount such attacks.
When Margaret Thatcher's government sought to remove many of the statutory protections of academic freedom which Robbins had regarded as so important, she was partly frustrated by a hostile amendment to her bill in the House of Lords. This incorporated into what became the 1988 Education Reform Act, the legal right of academics in the UK 'to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have'. These principles of academic freedom are thus articulated in the statutes of most UK universities. Concerns have been raised regarding threats to academic freedom in the UK, including the harassment of feminist academics. In response to such concerns, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued guidance. In 2016 the Warden of Wadham College Oxford, a lawyer previously Director of Public Prosecutions, pointed out that the Conservative government's anti-terrorism "Prevent" strategy legislation has placed on universities 'a specific enforceable duty ... to prevent the expression of views that are otherwise entirely compatible with the criminal law'.


Professors at public French universities and researchers in public research laboratories are expected, as are all civil servants, to behave in a neutral manner and to not favor any particular political or religious point of view during the course of their duties. However, the academic freedom of university professors is a fundamental principle recognized by the laws of the Republic, as defined by the Constitutional Council; furthermore, statute law declares about higher education that "teachers-researchers, researchers and teachers are fully independent and enjoy full freedom of speech in the course of their research and teaching activities, provided they respect, following university traditions and the dispositions of this code, principles of tolerance and objectivity". The nomination and promotion of professors is largely done through a process of peer review rather than through normal administrative procedures.


The German Constitution specifically grants academic freedom: "Art and science, research and teaching are free. Freedom of teaching does not absolve from loyalty to the constitution". In a tradition reaching back to the 19th century, jurisdiction has understood this right as one to teach, study, and conduct research freely, although the last concept has sometimes been taken as a cover term for the first two. Lehrfreiheit embraces the right of professors to determine the content of their lectures and to publish the results of their research without prior approval.
Since professors through their Habilitation receive the right to teach in a particular academic field, academic freedom is deemed to cover at least the entirety of this field. Lernfreiheit means a student's right to determine an individual course of study. Finally, Freiheit der Wissenschaft permits academic self-governance and grants the university control of its internal affairs.


In Mauritius the academic staff have the following rights, which are stated in the Chapter II Constitution of Mauritius: the protection of Freedom of Conscience, Protection of Freedom of Expression, Protection of Freedom of Assembly and Association, Protection of Freedom to Establish schools and the Protection from Discrimination. In a 2012 paper on the University of Mauritius the author states that although there are no records of abuse of human rights or freedom of the state "subtle threats to freedom of expression do exist, especially with regard to criticisms of ruling political parties and their leaders as well as religious groups." The government of Mauritius endorses the practice of academic freedom in the tertiary institutions of the country. Academic freedom became a public issue in May 2009 when the University of Mauritius spoke out against the previous vice chancellor Professor I. Fagoonee, who had forwarded a circular sent by the Ministry of Education to academics. This circular targeted public officers and required them to consult their superiors before speaking to the press. According to the paper, academics were annoyed by the fact that the vice chancellor had endorsed the circular by sending it to them when it was addressed to public officers. In an interview the vice- chancellor stated that while academics were free to speak to the press they should not compromise university policy or government policy. An academic spoke to the prime minister and the issue was eventually taken up to parliament. The vice chancellor was then required to step down. In return the government publicly endorsed the practice of academic freedom.
The institutional bureaucracy and the dependence on the state for funds has restricted the freedom of academics to criticize government policy. An interview with Dr. Kasenally an educator at the University of Mauritius expresses her views on academic freedom in the university. The professor states that in 1970s to 1980s the university was at the forefront of debates. But in the 1990s the university stepped away from controversial debates. In 1986, the rights of academics to engage in politics was removed to curtail academic freedom. Academics at the University of Mauritius have thus been encouraged to not express their views or ideas especially if the views oppose those of the management or government. While there have been no cases of arrests or extreme detention of academics, there is a fear that it would hinder their career progress especially at the level of a promotion thus, the academics try to avoid participating in controversial debates.


In the Netherlands the academic freedom is limited. In November 1985 the Dutch Ministry of Education published a policy paper titled Higher Education: Autonomy and Quality. This paper had a proposal that steered away from traditional education and informed that the future of higher education sector should not be regulated by the central government. In 1992 the Law of Higher Education and Research was published and became effective in 1993. However, this law governs only certain institutions. Furthermore, the above provision is part of an ordinary statute and lacks constitutional status, so it can be changed anytime by a simple majority in Parliament.


The 1987 Philippine Constitution states that, "Academic Freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning." Philippine jurisprudence and courts of law, including the Philippine Supreme Court tend to reflexively defer to the institutional autonomy of higher institutions of learning in determining academic decisions with respect to the outcomes of individual cases filed in the courts regarding the abuse of Academic Freedom by professors, despite the individual merits or demerits of any cases. A closely watched case was the controversial case of University of the Philippines at Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo who was not granted tenure due to an appeal by the minority dissenting vote within the faculty of the Sociology Department. This decision was sustained upon appeal by the dissenting faculty and Professor Raymundo to the University of the Philippines at Diliman Chancellor Sergio S. Cao; and though the case was elevated to University of the Philippines System President Emerlinda R. Roman, Roman denied the appeal which was elevated by Professor Raymundo to the university's board of regents for decision and the BOR granted her request for tenure. A major bone of contention among the supporters of Professor Raymundo was not to question the institutional Academic Freedom of the department in not granting her tenure, but in asking for transparency in how the Academic Freedom of the department was exercised, in keeping with traditions within the University of the Philippines in providing a basis that may be subject to peer review, for Academic decisions made under the mantle of Academic Freedom.

South Africa

The South African Constitution of 1996 offers protection of academic freedom and the freedom of scholarly research. Academic freedom became a main principle for higher education by 1997. Three main threats are believed to jeopardize academic freedom: government regulations, excessive influence of private sector sponsor on a university, and limitations of freedom of speech in universities.
There have been an abundance of scandals over the restricted academic freedom at a number of universities in South Africa. The University of KwaZulu-Natal received fame over its restricted academic freedom and the scandal that occurred in 2007. In this scandal a sociology lecturer, Fazel Khan was fired in April 2007 for "bringing the university into disrepute" after he released information to the news media. According to Khan he had been airbrushed from a photograph in a campus publication because of his participation in a staff strike last February. In light of this scandal the South African Council on Higher Education released a report stating that the state is influencing academic freedom. In particular, public universities are more susceptible to political pressure because they receive funds from the public.

New Zealand

Academic freedom pertains to forms of expression by academic staff engaged in scholarship and is defined by the Education Act 1989 as:
a) The freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions;
b) The freedom of academic staff and students to engage in research;
c) The freedom of the university and its staff to regulate the subject matter of courses taught at the university;
d) The freedom of the university and its staff to teach and assess students in the manner they consider best promotes learning; and
e) The freedom of the university through its council and vice-chancellor to appoint its own staff.

United States

In the United States, academic freedom is generally taken as the notion of academic freedom defined by the "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure", jointly authored by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges. These principles state that "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject." The statement also permits institutions to impose "limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims", so long as they are "clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment". The Principles have only the character of private pronouncements, not that of binding law.
Seven regional accreditors work with American colleges and universities, including private and religious institutions, to implement this standard. Additionally, the AAUP, which is not an accrediting body, works with these same institutions. The AAUP does not always agree with the regional accrediting bodies on the standards of protection of academic freedom and tenure. The AAUP lists those colleges and universities which it has found, after its own investigations, to violate these principles. There is some case law in the United States that holds that teachers are limited in their academic freedom.

Academic freedom for colleges and universities (institutional autonomy)

A prominent feature of the English university concept is the freedom to appoint faculty, set standards and admit students. This ideal may be better described as institutional autonomy and is distinct from whatever freedom is granted to students and faculty by the institution.
The Supreme Court of the United States said that academic freedom means a university can "determine for itself on academic grounds:
  1. who may teach,
  2. what may be taught,
  3. how it should be taught, and
  4. who may be admitted to study."
In a 2008 case, a federal court in Virginia ruled that professors have no academic freedom; all academic freedom resides with the university or college. In that case, Stronach v. Virginia State University, a district court judge held "that no constitutional right to academic freedom exists that would prohibit senior officials from changing a grade given by to one of his students." The court relied on mandatory precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire and a case from the fourth circuit court of appeals. The Stronach court also relied on persuasive cases from several circuits of the courts of appeals, including the first, third, and seventh circuits. That court distinguished the situation when a university attempts to coerce a professor into changing a grade, which is clearly in violation of the First Amendment, from when university officials may, in their discretionary authority, change the grade upon appeal by a student. The Stronach case has gotten significant attention in the academic community as an important precedent.

Relationship to freedom of speech

Academic freedom and free speech rights are not coextensive, although this widely accepted view has been recently challenged by an "institutionalist" perspective on the First Amendment. Academic freedom involves more than speech rights; for example, it includes the right to determine what is taught in the classroom. The AAUP gives teachers a set of guidelines to follow when their ideas are considered threatening to religious, political, or social agendas. When teachers speak or write in public, whether via social media or in academic journals, they are able to articulate their own opinions without the fear from institutional restriction or punishment, but they are encouraged to show restraint and clearly specify that they are not speaking for their institution. In practice, academic freedom is protected by institutional rules and regulations, letters of appointment, faculty handbooks, collective bargaining agreements, and academic custom.
In the U.S., the freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." By extension, the First Amendment applies to all governmental institutions, including public universities. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that academic freedom is a First Amendment right at public institutions. However, The United States' First Amendment has generally been held to not apply to private institutions, including religious institutions. These private institutions may honor freedom of speech and academic freedom at their discretion.


Evolution debate
Academic freedom is also associated with a movement to introduce intelligent design as an alternative explanation to evolution in US public schools. Supporters claim that academic institutions need to fairly represent all possible explanations for the observed biodiversity on Earth, rather than implying no alternatives to evolutionary theory exist.
Critics of the movement claim intelligent design is religiously motivated pseudoscience and cannot be allowed into the curriculum of US public schools due to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, often citing Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District as legal precedent. They also reject the allegations of discrimination against proponents of intelligent design, of which investigation showed no evidence.
A number of "academic freedom bills" have been introduced in state legislatures in the United States between 2004 and 2008. The bills were based largely upon language drafted by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the Intelligent Design movement, and derive from language originally drafted for the Santorum Amendment in the United States Senate. According to The Wall Street Journal, the common goal of these bills is to expose more students to articles and videos that undercut evolution, most of which are produced by advocates of intelligent design or biblical creationism. The American Association of University Professors has reaffirmed its opposition to these bills, including any portrayal of creationism as a scientifically credible alternative and any misrepresentation of evolution as scientifically controversial. , only the Louisiana bill has been successfully passed into law.
In the 20th century and particularly the 1950s during McCarthyism, there was much public date in print on Communism's role in academic freedom, e.g., Sidney Hook's Heresy, Yes–Conspiracy, No and Whittaker Chambers' "Is Academic Freedom in Danger?" among many other books and articles.
"Academic bill of rights"
Students for Academic Freedom was founded and is sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center to advocate against a perceived liberal bias in U.S. colleges and universities. The organization collected many statements from college students complaining that some of their professors were disregarding their responsibility to keep unrelated controversial material out of their classes and were instead teaching their subjects from an ideological point of view. SAF drafted model legislation, called the Academic Bill of Rights, which has been introduced in several state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives. The Academic Bill of Rights is based on the Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure as published by the American Association of University Professors in 1915, and modified in 1940 and 1970.
According to Students for Academic Freedom, academic freedom is "the freedom to teach and to learn." They contend that academic freedom promotes "intellectual diversity" and helps achieve a university's primary goals, i.e., "the pursuit of truth, the discovery of new knowledge through scholarship and research, the study and reasoned criticism of intellectual and cultural traditions, the teaching and general development of students to help them become creative individuals and productive citizens of a pluralistic democracy, and the transmission of knowledge and learning to a society at large." They feel that, in the past forty years, the principles as defined in the AAUP Declaration have become something of a dead letter, and that an entrenched class of tenured radical leftists is blocking all efforts to restore those principles. In an attempt to override such opposition, the Academic Bill of Rights calls for state and judicial regulation of colleges. Such regulation would ensure that:
Opponents argue that such a bill would actually restrict academic freedom, by granting politically motivated legislators and judges the right to shape the nature and focus of scholarly concerns. According to the American Association of University Professors, the Academic Bill of Rights is, despite its title, an attack on the very concept of academic freedom itself: "A fundamental premise of academic freedom is that decisions concerning the quality of scholarship and teaching are to be made by reference to the standards of the academic profession, as interpreted and applied by the community of scholars who are qualified by expertise and training to establish such standards." The Academic Bill of Rights directs universities to implement the principle of neutrality by requiring the appointment of faculty "with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives," an approach they argue is problematic because "It invites diversity to be measured by political standards that diverge from the academic criteria of the scholarly profession." For example,"no department of political theory ought to be obligated to establish 'a plurality of methodologies and perspectives' by appointing a professor of Nazi political philosophy." Concurring, the president of Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia fears that the Academic Bill of Rights "would inhibit his college's efforts to provide a faith-based education and would put pressure on the college to hire professors... who espouse views contrary to those of the institution."

Pontifical universities

around the world such as The Catholic University of America, the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome, the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru depend for their status as pontifical universities and for the terms of academic freedom on the Pope through the Congregation for Catholic Education. The terms of academic freedom at ecclesiastical institutions of education are outlined in the apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana.

Specific cases

While some controversies of academic freedom are reflected in proposed laws that would affect large numbers of students through entire regions, many cases involve individual academics that express unpopular opinions or share politically unfavorable information. These individual cases may receive widespread attention and periodically test the limits of, and support for, academic freedom. Several of these specific cases are also the foundations for later legislation.

The Lane Rebels

In the early 1830s, students at the Lane Theological Seminary, in Cincinnati, sponsored a series of debates lasting 18 days. The topic was the American Colonization Society's project of sending free blacks to Africa, specifically Liberia, and opposing freeing slaves unless they agreed to leave the United States immediately. The Society, whose founders and officers were Southern slaveowners, provided funding for existing free blacks to relocate to Liberia, believing that free blacks caused unrest among the slaves, and that the United States was and should remain a white country. The winner of the debate was the rejection of the Society's plan, which at best only helped a few thousand, in favor of abolitionusm: the immediate, complete, and uncompensated freeing of all slaves.
The trustees of the Seminary, fearing a repeat of the anti-abolitionist Cincinnati riots of 1829, prohibited any further "off-topic" discussiions", overruling the faculty in the process. As a result, the vast majority of the student body left Lane to become the initial class of the new Oberlin Collegiate Institute. They first obtained a written guarantee from the Oberlin trustees that there would be no limits on discourse, and that the faculty, not the trustees, would control the internal affairs of the school.

The Bassett Affair at Duke University

The Bassett Affair at Duke University in North Carolina in the early 20th century was an important event in the history of academic freedom. In October 1903, Professor John Spencer Bassett publicly praised Booker T. Washington and drew attention to the racism and white supremacist behavior of the Democratic party. Many media reports castigated Bassett, and several major newspapers published opinion pieces attacking him and demanding his termination. On December 1, 1903, the entire faculty of the college threatened to resign en masse if the board gave in to political pressures and asked Bassett to resign. He resigned after "parents were urged to withdraw their children from the college and churchmen were encouraged not to recommend the college to perspective students." President Teddy Roosevelt later praised Bassett for his willingness to express the truth as he saw it.

Professor Mayer and DeGraff of The University of Missouri

In 1929, Experimental Psychology Professor Max Friedrich Meyer and Sociology Assistant Professor Harmon O. DeGraff were dismissed from their positions at the University of Missouri for advising student Orval Hobart Mowrer regarding distribution of a questionnaire which inquired about attitudes towards partners' sexual tendencies, modern views of marriage, divorce, extramarital sexual relations, and cohabitation. The university was subsequently censured by the American Association of University Professors in an early case regarding academic freedom due a tenured professor.

Professor Rice of Rollins College

In a famous case investigated by the American Association of University Professors, President Hamilton Holt of Rollins College in March 1933 fired John Andrew Rice, an atheist scholar and unorthodox teacher, whom Holt had hired, along with three other "golden personalities", in his push to put Rollins on the cutting edge of innovative education. Holt then required all professors to make a "loyalty pledge" to keep their jobs. The American Association of University Professors censured Rollins. Rice and the three other "golden personalities", who were all dismissed for refusing to make the loyalty pledge, founded Black Mountain College.

William Shockley

In 1978, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, electronics inventor, and electrical engineering professor, William Shockley, was concerned about relatively high reproductive rates among people of African descent, because he believed that genetics doomed black people to be intellectually inferior to white people. He stated that he believed his work on race to be more important than his work leading to the Nobel prize. He was strongly criticized for this stance, which raised some concerns about whether criticism of unpopular views of racial differences suppressed academic freedom.

President Summers of Harvard

In 2006, Lawrence Summers, while president of Harvard University, led a discussion that was intended to identify the reasons why fewer women chose to study science and mathematics at advanced levels. He suggested that the possibility of intrinsic gender differences in terms of talent for science and mathematics should be explored. He became the target of considerable public backlash. His critics were, in turn, accused of attempting to suppress academic freedom. Due to the adverse reception to his comments, he resigned after a five-year tenure. Another significant factor of his resignation was several votes of no-confidence placed by the deans of schools, notably multiple professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Duke Lacrosse Scandal

The 2006 scandal in which several members of the Duke Lacrosse team were falsely accused of rape raised serious criticisms against exploitation of academic freedom by the university and its faculty to press judgement and deny due process to the three players accused. This case was very controversial due to the rape culture it pertains to.

Professor Khan of the University of KwaZulu-Natal

In 2006 trade union leader and sociologist Fazel Khan was fired from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa after taking a leadership role in a strike. In 2008 international concern was also expressed at attempts to discipline two other academics at the same university – Nithiya Chetty and John van der Berg – for expressing concern about academic freedom at the university.

Author J Michael Bailey of Northwestern University

wrote a popular science-style book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, which promotes Ray Blanchard's theory that trans women are motivated by sexuality, and dismisses the "woman trapped in a man's body" concept of transsexuality. In 2007 in an effort to discredit his book, some activists filed formal complaints with Northwestern University accusing Bailey of conducting regulated human research. They also filed a complaint with Illinois state regulators, requesting that they investigate Bailey for practicing psychology without a license. Regulators dismissed the complaint. Other academics have also accused him of sexual misconduct.

Professor Li-Ann of New York University School of Law

In 2009 Thio Li-ann withdrew from an appointment at New York University School of Law after controversy erupted about some anti-gay remarks she had made, prompting a discussion of academic freedom within the law school. Subsequently, Li-ann was asked to step down from her position in the NYU Law School.

Professor Robinson of the University of California at Santa Barbara

In 2009 the University of California at Santa Barbara charged William I. Robinson with antisemitism after he circulated an email to his class containing photographs and paragraphs of the Holocaust juxtaposed to those of the Gaza Strip. Robinson was fired from the university, but after charges were dropped after a worldwide campaign against the management of the university.

The Diliman Affair of the University of the Philippines

The University of the Philippines at Diliman affair where controversy erupted after Professor Gerardo A. Agulto of the College of Business Administration was sued by MBA graduate student Chanda R. Shahani for a nominal amount in damages for failing him several times in the Strategic Management portion of the Comprehensive Examination. Agulto refused to give a detailed basis for his grades and instead invoked Academic Freedom while Shahani argued in court that Academic Freedom could not be invoked without a rational basis in grading a student.

Professor Salaita of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In 2013 the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign offered Steven Salaita a faculty position in American Indian studies but then withdrew the offer in 2014, after reviewing some of his comments on Twitter about Israel.

Professor Guth of Kansas University

Professor David Guth of Kansas University was persecuted by the Kansas Board of Regents due to his tweet, from a personal account linked to the university, regarding the shootings which stated, "#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you." Following the controversial comments, Kansas University suspended, but ultimately allowed him to come back. Because of this incident and the moral qualms it raised, the Kansas Board of Regents passed a new policy regarding social media. This new legislature allowed universities to discipline or terminate employees who used social media in ways "contrary to the best interests of the university."