Repressive Tolerance Revamped? The Illiberal Embrace of Academic Freedom

By Andrew Ross


The offshore boom in campus branches has produced enough evidence to make an initial assessment of how well academic freedoms are being observed in the illiberal locations—East Asia and the Gulf states—that are now hosting anglophone universities. Reviewing the history of AAUP policy making on the topic, and the circumstances under which a “gold rush” developed, the article analyzes the crackdown on speech in China, and focuses on the case study of New York University Abu Dhabi, where a vigorous debate about freedoms and labor standards was followed by a series of conflicts with state authorities, resulting in violations of AAUP principles. Though it may be too early to offer conclusive arguments, the record of the liberal arts in illiberal places so far suggests that Herbert Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance” may be cropping up in new versions.

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