Gerhard Casper on “The Winds of Freedom”


The book was written for two reasons,
really. One was, I had put a lot of effort into my
various speeches and they were very carefully thought
through. But, of course what gets lost, because,
often, you cannot talk about it directly in your speech, is
what is the context. And I was struck from, from the very
beginning that the issue of the freedoms of the
university, the freedoms of faculty, students, and in
particular, the university as an institution, its
autonomy, were important subjects. And I obviously had, taken them right on
in my inaugural address. [SOUND] Stanford’s first president, David
Starr Jordan chose the [FOREIGN], the wind of freedom blows as
the informal motto. What I read impressed on me, what a splendid choice, Jordan and Stanford
made, when they invoked the winds of freedom as the short expression of principle to guide
Stanford University.>>The Stanford model is something very
important. It has a very interesting history that I
could not lay out in detail in the inaugural
speech. But that then, led me to address concerns
of mine, that I had had since my Chicago
days. For instance, I kind of had begun to
notice that certain subjects in the classroom were so explosive that both faculty and students engaged in
self-censorship. Let us say that in a Liberal setting of
the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, or
Roe v Wade, could not really any longer often be discussed
in its own context and, and the questionable
aspects of the discussion. Because so many people felt so strongly
about it in the classroom. And I wanted to emphasize that that was really improper, inappropriate for a
university. You have to have a wide open discussion of
all aspects of human phenomenon.>>A university’s freedom must be the
freedom of its members, faculty, and students to think and speak
for themselves. A university must not have dominant ways
of thinking. I’m very, always concerned about the
fragility of universities. Part of that clearly reflects my own
background, my German background because, when Hitler came to power in 1933,
he almost immediately forced the universities to comply with the
ideology of the Nazis. Politicians and strong social forces in
society try to leverage universities for their
purposes. It is not so much trying to influence the
content of universities, or forcing them to think particular ways, as you had
in, in, in the Third Reich, for instance. But it is, the fact, that government
nevertheless, for all kinds of well-meaning reasons believes
it should regulate. And I think what is happening now, the world over, to universities, by no means
in the United States alone, that everybody
looks to universities as the institutions that will
save their societies. By that I mean, save their societies
economically. People look at Stanford and, and Silicon Valley and innovation and
entrepreneurship, and they say, that’s what we should, believe
the University of Munich should be doing. Right? The question is how we do it. And I, I’m concerned that, increasingly,
as everybody is throwing money at us for this purpose or that purpose, we
get entangled. I believe universities have autonomy, we
have academic freedom, we should make our decisions based only on academic
considerations, and we have that for a reason. And that is to make sure that the academic
enterprise is uninhibited and robust. [SOUND] [MUSIC]

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