First, over at Crooked Timber (one of the few blogs where I bother to read the comments), Michael Bérubé offers a writeup of some developments in free speech in higher education. He points to the case Hong v. Grant, which basically states that a university can administratively punish a professor for job-related speech which is not related to teaching or research (committee work, for instance.) Hence, this chilling letter from UC Davis to the Faculty Senate:
According to recent court rulings, your speech and behavior in job-related duties as a public employee rather than a private citizen have no First Amendment protection. This means that disciplinary action may be taken against you (including dismissal) for statements you make in the course of your employment. According to recent court rulings, your speech and behavior in job-related duties as a public employee rather than a private citizen have no First Amendment protection. This means that disciplinary action may be taken against you (including dismissal) for statements you make in the course of your employment. Any activity performed on the job falls within this purview. According to the recent court rulings, speech and actions in shared governance activities are certainly not protected...In light of the present deep economic recession and dramatic cuts under discussion at UC Davis, faculty participating in shared governance are in a position in which they may voice strong views and concerns that could lead to lawful but punitive reaction by the administration, including denial of merits and even dismissal. Given the legal and policy realities at hand, we highly recommend that you use caution, restraint, and judgment in your speech and actions in all job-related duties.So, as Eric Rauchway put it, "If I follow the logic correctly, Hong is obliged to participate in the administration of his department. But the definition of 'actively participate in the interworkings and administration of his department' appears here to be, 'say only those things which won’t lose you a merit increase.'"
I find this particularly interesting as a scientist because we tend to think that "academic freedom" debates mostly apply to people like Ward Churchill, and not to scientists. Not so! Now you can get canned for being a loudmouth at your departmental committee meetings. And there are no shortage of loudmouths in the sciences, that's for sure.
On a completely unrelated note (except for the fact that it's about politics): The Great Paul has pointed up some very interesting legislation:
On Monday, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced the “Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Services (PATIENTS) Act of 2009,” a new bill prohibiting Medicare or Medicaid from using “comparative effectiveness research to deny coverage.”This really just leaves me speechless. The War on Science continues unabated. At least the Republican Party is consistent on that front.