May 26, 2021 – Free Speech & Peace

VP of Philanthropy Charlie Ruger on defending academic freedom


According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, state legislatures have increased their efforts to restrict academic freedom.

A commitment to the preservation of civil liberties, including academic freedom, is critical to the culture of openness that has allowed millions to discover and benefit from a diversity of ideas. Which is why Charles Koch Foundation Vice President for Philanthropy Charlie Ruger is addressing this trend.

In a RealClearEducation op-ed, Ruger examined legislation, including bills circulating in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and New Hampshire, that would threaten academic freedom. In each of these instances, Ruger said the legislation “is overly broad” and “would sow confusion and threaten academic freedom far beyond those supposedly targeted.” Ruger said these measures, “[A]mount to heavy-handed overreach that will discourage the open educational environment they claim to champion.”

Ruger recently told The Chronicle of Higher Education that “even if” these pieces of legislation are well-intentioned, they are “heavy-handed and will erode academic freedom.” He also said universities flourish “not by top-down policies restricting what to teach, what to study, and what to say, but by inviting examination of all ideas.”

On May 20, The Chronicle published a letter from Ruger that responded to a story about an Idaho law that bans the teaching of critical race theory. Ruger said, “Legislation restricting what faculty can teach is not just an impingement of academic freedom, but to quote Frederick Douglass, violates the ‘rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.’”

The Charles Koch Foundation supports campus-based initiatives to defend civil liberties and educational programming that equips students to promote and benefit from an open exchange of ideas. Learn more about our efforts to promote academic freedom.