Bertrand Russell and Academic Freedom


Since today is Bertrand Russell’s birthday (he was born in 1872), I wanted to share this short segment from my dissertation on the history of academic freedom about Russell’s firing from CCNY and the first court case to mention the words “academic freedom”:


A turning point in academic freedom came in 1940. That year marked the adoption of the AAUP’s fundamental doctrine on academic freedom and tenure. But it was also the year in which famed philosopher Bertrand Russell was prevented from teaching logic at City College of New York, and the first court decision in America mentioned academic freedom.

Russell was called “a desiccated, divorced, and decadent advocate of sexual promiscuity” (Edwards, 1957, 210). Bronx Borough President James Lyons threatened to eliminate the $7.5 million appropriation for city colleges unless Russell was fired, declaring that “the colleges would either be godly colleges, American colleges, or they would be closed” (Edwards…

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