Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


The First Amendment and Academic Freedom: Faculty as Employees and Citizens

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Robert DeBard

Second Advisor

William Knight (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patricia Kubow (Committee Member)


The events of recent years have caused increased concern over the First Amendment free speech rights of faculty, often referred to as academic freedom. In addition to individual schools' contract and policy terms, it has been asserted that faculty speech is also protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. There is continuing debate over the extent of First Amendment protection and to what extent, if any, faculty should be treated differently from other public employees for First Amendment analysis. Although the United States Supreme Court has stated that academic freedom is a "special concern" of the First Amendment, the Court has not defined First Amendment academic freedom or the extent of its protections. The United States Supreme Court has recently declined to address the issue of the extent of First Amendment protection for academic freedom, continuing to leave it to lower courts to decide these issues on a case-by-case basis. However, faculty at state colleges and universities are also public employees and the Supreme Court has decided First Amendment cases dealing with public employee speech. Thus, the Court's public employee speech doctrine must be examined and analyzed with regard to its application to faculty speech. By examining and analyzing the current Supreme Court guidance relating to academic freedom being considered a special concern of the First Amendment and the Court's public employee speech doctrine, higher education administration can have a better idea of how to apply the concept of academic freedom in policy and practice.