American universities are at the pinnacle of scholarship and discovery in the world. Many things contribute to this greatness, but among the most important is the commitment to free and open inquiry that has always been central to American higher education. Academic freedom is the soil in which transformative ideas germinate and significant innovations grow.

Academic inquiry is supported by norms and traditions within the academy, but also in the broader society. Importantly, politics has to remain one step removed from academics. In many countries, university work is controlled and constrained by governmental interests, and the result is a mediocre academy. In the United States, higher ed has historically been well insulated from direct governmental meddling, even at public institutions, and this is a key reason for the success of American higher education.

In recent years, there have been troubling signs that this norm is decaying…

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