ESEP 15:7-15 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00162

Academic freedom, the ‘teacher exception’, and the diminished professor

Frank Donoghue*

The Ohio State University, Department of English, 164 W. 17th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This essay seeks to place the subject of academic freedom in the larger context of the management of the contemporary university. It does so first by reviewing the legal history of academic freedom, a narrative that reveals its steady erosion over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The second section of the essay explores incursions by university administrators into the ownership of teaching materials. Though it was long taken for granted that instructors owned the content of the courses they taught, the transformation of pedagogy through technology has changed that, as administrators can now monitor, control and indeed commodify the courses they offer. Taken together, the legal redefinition of academic freedom and the erosion of what used to be called the ‘teacher exception’ to the work-for-hire rule have turned universities into more manageable workplaces and university instructors into ordinary workers.


KEY WORDS: Academic freedom · ‘Teacher exception’ · Intellectual property · Online learning


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Cite this article as: Donoghue F (2015) Academic freedom, the ‘teacher exception’, and the diminished professor. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 15:7-15. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00162

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