Academic Freedom at OU vs Academic Freedom in OK

One of the most common comments I get from people:

I dont understand why youre going to school in Oklahoma. Srsly. Oklahoma? Why didnt you got to UCSF or Harvard or something? Oklahoma??

Well, there are lots of reasons why I like it here. This is one of those reasons:

In response, OU President David Boren said recently that colleges and universities should be a free marketplace of ideas, and it is inappropriate for legislators to attempt to restrict speech on campuses.
Richard Broughton, an OU zoology professor and president of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, said the resolution claimed to support a free exchange of ideas on campuses, but actually aimed to restrict freedom of speech.

From an email we all received earlier this year:

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his publication of The Origin of Species. Faculty of the University of Oklahoma developed a special series of events and distinguished lectures for this anniversary year, and the program is known as Darwin 2009. Below is a link to the web site that details this program and all the events throughout the year.

One of the major events is a talk being given by Richard Dawkins. The requests for tickets has been so overwhelming that the organizing committee has moved the event to a larger venue and made it first come first served (tickets are free). A flyer about the Dawkins lecture is attached if you are interested.

James J. Tomasek
Dean, Graduate College

Yes, Oklahoma has a lot of crazies. But the University of Oklahoma has a great president. My college has a great dean. My department has a great chair. And my professors are great too.

Contrast this to statements from OK legislators, who previously screamed for 'Academic Freedom':

Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, filed a lengthy open records request with the university, asking for any correspondence regarding Dawkins' speech, information on any costs to OU, a list of any money Dawkins received and who provided the funds, and any other "pertinent financial information."

Dawkins waived his speaking fees for the event, a university spokeswoman said. Hamilton could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.
State Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, filed a resolution this session opposing Dawkins' invitation to speak at OU and the university's actions "to indoctrinate students in the theory of evolution."... "His presence at OU was not about science," he said. "It was to promote an atheistic agenda, and that was very clear."

Remember, folks-- All this wailing and gnashing of teeth by religious radicals in OK happened before Dawkins said one word. This was/is about stopping Dawkins from speaking, and punishing anyone associated with his presence in Oklahoma.

Such a difference between those who stand for academic freedom, and those who just use 'academic freedom' as a dog whistle.

HT to Larry


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It's easy to talk about freedom of speech when yours isn't threatened. Sometimes we don't get a choice, but it takes some serious sand to actually step into a situation where it's going to be on the line.

My hat's off to them, and if anyone asks: yes, that's my full legal name.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 30 Mar 2009 #permalink

Oklahoma also provides you with a local kumite in which to battle creationists. You wouldn't get that in the San Francisco or Boston areas. MORTAL KOMBAAAAT!!!!

These guys (and gals) have no real concept of freedom of speech. To them, it is all about the ideology.

"I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Sometimes I weary of being here on the frontlines of the culture wars, but then I think of what Jesus said when confronted by pious Pharisees, "Those who are healthy don't need a doctor. Sick people do." To paraprase him, "Those who think freely don't need freethinkers. Oklahomans do."

Dawkins oughta make a return trip. That would be sweet. They should raise a bunch of money and pay him like $100,000 or something.

By tweetybird386sx (not verified) on 30 Mar 2009 #permalink

Tweetybird, What a great idea. I would love to see Dawkins again and would gladly pay for the privilege. Since he waved his fee and I got to hear him for free I feel a bit obligated to, at least, make a donation to the Dawkins' Foundation. Since he made a donation to OESE I think that I can, too.

By Mind Over Splatter (not verified) on 30 Mar 2009 #permalink

I'm glad to see that you agree with this crazy place being a battleground state. There are powerful allies but the religious are still frothing in their mouths. In other news, the bill to place the 10 commandments on capitol grounds have passed the Senate committee. The bill which passed the OK house is going to the Senate.

Fortunately, we have a level headed governor. I just hope our crazies will not override his veto. What a huge waste of money.

Man, I was actually disappointed that none of these shenanigans went down at ASU when I saw Dawkins speak here last year. Not even a single protester!

Though during his speech Dawkins did mention his mild dislike for people who wear baseball caps backwards, which of course I was doing. He refused to sign my copy of The Blind Watchmaker afterward because of it (jokingly, he did eventually sign it).

I'm glad that ERV recognizes how *fortunate* she is to be somewhere where she can make a big difference in the debate. I'm yet another blue-state atheist with a blog. Being an atheist in San Francisco takes as much courage, and will make about as much difference (locally) as being a Mormon in Salt Lake. Oklahomans, YOU have an opportunity that many atheists do not, and it's not an exaggeration to say that I'm jealous. I was trolling the news for weeks leading up to the Dawkins talk because I wished I could've been part of the crowd there.

Perversely, I emailed Thomsen and ask to be personally added to his resolutions to be kept out of OK.…

(a) OK as a net food exporter, feeds a significant portion of the US.
(b) Global warming will probably force substantial changes in agriculture.
(c) Knowing something about evolution could be important for new crop development.