Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Andrew Paquin, Capitalism, and Academic Freedom

Andy Guess of Inside Higher Ed reports on Colorado Christian University’s controversial decision to decline a contract renewal for assistant professor of global studies Andrew Paquin. As Guess details, the dismissal arguably boils down to Paquin’s unwillingness to be “sufficiently capitalist” in the classroom due to his use of texts by progressive evangelical Jim Wallis and animal-rights activist Peter Singer. Despite Paquin’s work with his non-profit organization The 10/10 Project, which offers “microcredit” loans to African start-up businesses, this was not good enough for university president William L. Armstrong:

“…Armstrong became president a year ago and helped unveil a new set of strategic objectives, including to ‘[i]mpact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, Biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of constitution and Western civilization…’

“On issues like a commitment to free markets, Armstrong said, ‘We’re very straightforward about our convictions.’ But he stressed that the commitment to capitalism doesn’t necessarily come from the Bible. ‘We don’t look to the Scriptures for justification for everything we teach,’ he said. ‘It’s not that we are tying [Christianity and capitalism] together.’ ”

Yet if Armstrong isn’t linking capitalism to Christianity, then why are “free markets” and “Biblical view of human nature” mentioned in the same sentence of the school’s strategic objectives? Even more importantly, if schools such as CCU eschew faculty tenure due to the centrality of adhering to a specific doctrine, then how can academic freedom be a possibility in cases like Paquin’s—especially when he apparently had no prior knowledge of the university’s decision to not renew his contract? If professors have to censor even slight critiques of school policy to ensure their jobs, then we cannot refer to such an environment as being academically “free.”

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