John Yoo, the Torture Memos, and Ward Churchill: Exploring the Outer Limits of Academic Freedom

Richard Falk

in Speaking about Torture

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242245
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823242283 | DOI:
John Yoo, the Torture Memos, and Ward Churchill: Exploring the Outer Limits of Academic Freedom

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This chapter discusses growing threats to academic freedom in U.S. universities by comparing the differential treatment of professors Ward Churchill (University of Colorado, Boulder) and John Yoo (University of California, Berkeley). Opposed to encroachments on academic freedom for the ways that they erode the intellectual atmosphere and discourage critical dissent, it seeks to establish a principled basis for assessing Yoo's conduct when he was on leave from the university serving as legal advisor to the Bush administration. It argues that while Yoo's support for policies sanctioning torture should be protected by norms of academic freedom, the model he presents in giving advice that violates basic rules of international treaty and criminal law undermines his professional responsibilities as a teacher of law. At stake are two contending tenets of a constitutional democracy: safeguarding academic freedom and the professional responsibility of academic advisors to provide guidance that falls within the domain of reasonable interpretation.

Keywords: Academic freedom; Ward Churchill; John Yoo; Chris Edley; University of California Academic Personnel Manual; New McCarthyism

Chapter.  7481 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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