Academic Freedom or Academic Disruption?

Our final feature story of the year takes on the timely, but controversial, topic of recent protests on college campuses across the U.S.
Academic Freedom or Academic Disruption?

As a college preparatory school where a majority of graduates attend a postsecondary institution, the recent turmoil and unrest unfolding in places like Columbia University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Southern California is something that the Brownell Talbot community should be aware of and talking about. While the nuances of these protests can sometimes be difficult to follow, some of the deeper issues at stake regarding college education—especially those pertaining to allowances and limits of academic freedom—are of immediate relevance to any student looking to continue their schooling once they graduate from high school.

Since the beginning of the fight between Israel and Palestine on October 7, the people and the media have been consumed by the conflict. The current escalation, marked by rocket attacks from Palestinian militant groups and retaliatory airstrikes by the Israeli military, has led to significant casualties and widespread destruction. The conflict is not merely a regional issue but a focal point of international concern, drawing responses from global powers and humanitarian organizations. College students have generally been strong voices for the Palestinians in Gaza, and have arranged protests on elite school grounds like Columbia University. The schools and law enforcement have taken action to secure the protests and make sure no violence occurred. This security intervention has drawn scrutiny, as it is seen as an attack against the freedom to protest. 

On the other side of the debate, many of these schools where protests are occurring have among the highest tuition rates in the country, and many students and their families are making significant sacrifices—including in the form of student loans—to attend such reputable institutions. If classes are moved online or cancelled, as has been the case at a number of schools, is that fair to those students who are not involved in the protest but are just their to get a good education?

There are no easy answers, but we’re fortunate to have access to knowledgeable faculty and alumni who are paying close attention to this story, and have even had a front-row seat to one of the most highly covered protests. Thus, we’re turning over the rest of this feature story to the “Making Sense with Mr. Smith” podcast, in which Mr. Smith is joined by Sophie Reimer, BT class of 2023 and current sophomore at Columbia University. Sophie and Mr. Smith are interview by Christine and Hayden about the complexities of the issue, some of what Sophie has experienced firsthand, and how this issue might continue to play out into the next school year.

Click here to listen to the latest episode of “Making Sense with Mr. Smith.”

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