Are Academics Different?

Stanley Fish in the New York Times:

Fish That of course is the key question. Are academics different, and if so, in what ways, and to what extent do the differences legitimate a degree of freedom not enjoyed by the members of other professions? These and related questions were debated in Urofsky v. Gilmore (2000). In that case professors from a number of state colleges and universities in Virginia contended that their right of academic freedom was infringed by a law requiring state employers to gain permission from a supervisor before accessing sexually explicit materials on state-owned computers. Judge Wilkins, writing for the majority, treated the complaining professors as employees rather than as possessors of a special right, and observed that “It cannot be doubted that in order to pursue its legitimate goals effectively, the state must have the ability to control the manner in which its employees discharge their duties.” The professors had anticipated this reasoning and maintained that even if the law was “valid as to the majority of state employees, it violates the First Amendment freedom rights of professors at state colleges and universities.” Or, in other words, we understand the legal point, but it doesn’t apply to us, for we’re different.

More here.