Space to Think: Defending "Thought-Labor" as Essential to Academic Freedom

By Michael Davis, Margaret Cotter-Lynch, and Kyle Lincoln


Ever-increasing professional demands on the professoriate pose a threat to academic freedom by eroding opportunities for unstructured intellectual exploration and thought-labor, which are essential to the knowledge production and dissemination that higher education contributes to a democratic society. To defend space to think, first we must challenge academia’s prioritization of work efficiency and highlight the competition of efficiency with work quality. Second, we must recognize unstructured inquiry through the same traditional rewards pathways that exist for other valued labor in an academic career, and acknowledge the value of thought-labor for the fundamental academic mission of teaching quality and contribution to the common good. Third, we must acknowledge that the four pillars of academic freedom (freedom of research and publication, freedom of teaching, freedom of intramural expression, and freedom of extramural expression) cannot exist without protecting their bedrock, space for thought-labor.

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