Individual Professors’ Acadamic Freedom Narrow?

Andy Ho’s piece in today’s Straits Times suggests to me that Thio Li-Ann supporters (or at least that other law lecturer who was once Thio’s student & once worked for Thio’s Mum & is now Thio’s colleague in NUS Law Fac) have been hissy fitting over ST’s coverage of Thio Li-Ann canceling her NYU stint.

I thought it was a good piece (‘What academic freedom?’ on page A26. If anyone has a link I’ll be grateful!)
Trying to be fair, he points out individual professors may indeed be subjected to stricter standards as citizens outside the classroom–

I just want to point out this may only be fair because of how some academics use their academic credentials to claim authority outside the classroom…

Think of a certain former law academic insisting she had the moral authority to appoint herself feminist mentor and trying to mastermind the takeover of a group citing as justification her page 73 mention as former university law dean in that group’s publication honouring Singapore women.

Thio Li-Ann is probably familiar with and perhaps even supports that POV.

If this is the kind of authority and respect Singapore Law Academics claim for themselves beyond their classrooms surely they should also be responsible for their behaviour outside their classrooms?

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2 Responses

  1. I am shocked to see such an article from the ST (see attachment). Andy Ho is a senior writer with ST, so we can safely assume that:
    1. He knows how to do research.
    2. He knows the definition of freedom and rights.

    By presenting half a story (as I’ll prove how later) and giving a flawed argument (shown later), we can safely conclude that Andy Ho is being biased and abusing the concept of “freedom of expression”.

    1. “Both Prof Thio’s speech and Mr Churchill’s essay had nothing to do with their individual areas of expertise. They were both assailed for their extramural expressions of opinion”.
    — Thio Li-ann did not merely “make a speech”. As an NMP making a speech, she is lobbying for gay rights to be denied. She is taking political action against gays, making being gay a criminal offence, like theft, rape and fraud. And her rationale for her action is based on theology and that of Christianity and Islam i.e. being gay is unnatural. It is not a rational argument.

    Therefore, she is not just airing her opinions. By taking action to suppress gay rights, Thio Li-ann is a human rights violator. This is one of the important premises why the NYU students protested strongly against her. I think I don’t have to spell it out why a human rights violator is unfit to teach a course in human rights.

    2. “An academic may also be disciplined for regularly making irrational scholarly arguments, if he is consistently incomprehensible in the classroom and if his research is incoherent. Thus, even the rights that individual professors have against being told how to actually do their work seem limited.”

    — I believe that everyone is entitled to their own interests but an academic work can only be useful to society if it is rational. And are we to allow teachers whose research premises and outcomes are irrational AND he is incomprehsnible in the classroom AND has inconsistent research?

    3. Comparing Ward Churchill with Thio Li-ann is a flawed argument . This is not monkey-see-monkey-do. The example is a shortcut of saying – Churchill was found to be dismissed wrongly i.e. Thio Li-ann was dismissed wrongly.

    4. “Indeed, when speaking as citizens outside their academic institutional settings, they may in fact have less protected speech than other citizens. Most citizens won’t lose their jobs if they expressed unorthodox views. But a professor who does so may be sanctioned.”

    — Firstly, Thio DECLINED the teaching post. Secondly, what is a course worth with the lack of students? The university did not, as Andy Ho is trying to portray, curtail Thio’s freedom in any way. The students themselves voiced out that they cannot have a professor like Thio at their university.

    Andy Ho has totally twisted the idea of freedom/ human rights, which, according to the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights is:

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    Since he is an experienced reporter, I believe fully in his technical capabilities as a writer and that the article is the result of deliberated biased reporting. It is deplorable that he is perverting the idea of freedom to defend violation of freedom.

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