Oral Sex (Yes, Oral Sex) and Academic Freedom

This isn’t about the protection of human research subjects.

But it’s about the value of academic freedom (and, consequently, about the value of peer-review as an internal check that is part of what justifies our claim to such freedom).

Here’s the story, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Sex experts on faculties upset some at statehouse”

Criticism is building against Georgia’s University System for employing faculty members who are academic experts in such areas as oral sex and male prostitution.

Friday, several days after Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton) said he was “personally outraged” over the issue, a second member of the state House echoed his criticism, drawing applause from some colleagues.

Also Friday, Jim Beck, president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, said he wants legislative committee hearings to sift through the facts. “We are concerned,” he said, “if the initial reports are true.”

The dust-up has raised questions about the role of higher education, the value of research and the importance of academic freedom. It also raises the possibility of a culture war in the General Assembly over Christian values and public policy.

University System officials defended the faculty members Friday. “Our mission is defined as teaching, research and public service,” said John Millsaps, a spokesman for the state’s Board of Regents. “That encompasses a broad range of interest and expertise.”

This, of course, is precisely why principles of academic freedom — including the tenure system — are so important. They’re important because you never know when some ill-informed legislator will get all fired up an demand that profs be fired just because s/he doesn’t understand the value of their work.

~ by Nancy Walton on February 8, 2009.

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