Academic Freedom Alliance Letter to Concordia University Wisconsin

Concordia University Wisconsin was contacted by the Academic Freedom Alliance to request that they reaffirm their academic freedom for Gregory Schulz, a philosopher.

Schulz is an active speaker and writer who speaks to public audiences about issues related to Concordia University Wisconsin’s Lutheran Church affiliation. In an earlier article entitled “Woke Dysphoria At Concordia,” Schulz criticized the growth of “wokeism” in American society and Concordia University Wisconsin. He also criticized the manner in which the university’s presidential search was carried out. Schulz was expelled from the campus and banned from returning to it as the university considered his future employment.

It is well-known that this controversy exists. The professor writes a piece for the public that criticizes university administrators. University administrators then respond with retaliation against him. This is an obvious violation of professors’ academic freedom as per the American Association of University Professors standard. Public universities would find this type of retaliation against extramural speech to be an issue under the First Amendment.

However, the situation is quite unusual because Concordia University Wisconsin has been designated as a religious university. Because it is a religious institution, Concordia University Wisconsin does not adhere to traditional academic freedom protections. It also imposes unusual restrictions on faculty speech. Even though Concordia has an academic freedom policy in place, the university’s actions here go well beyond what it can do for professorial speech.

Schulz isn’t challenging Lutheran doctrine or challenging the university’s Christian mission. The university administration has been criticised by Schulz. He also questions whether their actions are consistent with Lutheran obligations. To punish or suppress such speech would mean that Concordia could not be recognized as an institution of higher education.

You can find the following letter in your mailbox:

The university may be seen to have significantly departed from normal expectations of how professors are expected to behave in American universities. Although Professor Schulz is not permitted to advocate a contrary position to the Synod, he participates in public discussion about the possible implications for the university of these positions. The university cannot promise faculty that they will not speak out about university future and fidelity to Synod positions.

Though speech about controversial political and social topics may sometimes prove to be dangerous and divisive, universities must be places where academics can have a meaningful debate and engage with the community on the principles and their commitments. If university leaders are willing to sanction faculty members for such speech, particularly when such speech involves criticisms of university administration, then free intellectual inquiry will be stifled rather than encouraged and the university will not be able to perform its charge  of supplying “the higher education services needed to accomplish the mission of the church.”

You can read the entire article here.