Thursday, September 21, 2017

Brian Leiter Excoriates USD Law Dean Stephen Ferruollo

I rarely agree with Brian Leiter (except, of course, for his criticisms of the U.S. News Law School Rankings), but his post excoriating USD Law Dean Stephen Ferruollo for his failure to defend one of his professor's First Amendment rights and academic freedom needs to be broadcast as widely as possible.

Professor Leiter begins, "USD Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo should either resign or issue a public apology for his abject failure of leadership in one of his central duties as head of an academic institution:  to defend freedom of speech and inquiry by faculty and students on both scholarly matters and matters of public concern.  It is not his role to express his own opinions about positions defended by his faculty, either in their scholarship or in their contributions to public debate.  If he wants to express his own opinions, he should step down from the Deanship and rejoin the faculty.  But as Dean, his job is to defend freedom of speech and inquiry, even when it is unpopular.  He has failed."

Although he is critical of the Wax/Alexander op-ed, he asserts, "the job of academic administrators is to administer a university environment, which includes protecting the space for scholarly and political debate. An administrator can only do that if he or she does not enter that space and take sides against members of the faculty or the student body."  He concludes, "The Dean speaks for that community, and the way Dean Ferruolo has spoken has now endangered the community he was charged with shepherding."

As has been often stated, our First Amendment freedoms are our most important ones because they allow our other freedoms.  Our right of free speech is endangered today, especially on college campuses.  All of us in academia must do everything we can to protect free speech, even when we disagree with that speech.  I salute Professor Leiter's post.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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