Jacob Levy's recent post got me (recall) to take a fresh look at the (November 1967) Kalven report (named after the jurist). I was startled to learn that both John Hope Franklin and George Stigler (the Chicago economist, who figures in a lot of my blog posts and scholarship) were also on this committee. The report treats the university as a special kind of community. It is special not just because it is a "community of scholars" for the "limited [albeit noble] purpose" of "teaching and research." Rather, it is special for two reasons: (i) it exists for the "long term." That is to say it exists, in part, in order to reproduce students and scholars (recall my post). The significance of (i) is, in part, revealed by (ii) because it "cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions of its existence and effectiveness."
The reason for (ii) is because each member of the community -- the report only recognizes faculty and students -- cannot be compelled at all (neither by a procedure, argument (!), nor force) to conform to other people's views. (It is no surprise that the report does not argue its case; it merely reaffirms "a few old truths and a cherished condition"--that is, it deliberately presents itself as conservative.)* That is to say, the Kalven report embraces the idea that there is no decision mechanism at all that will not inhibit "the full freedom of dissent on which it will thrive." (So no proceduralism.)
I ignore here the objections to this idea of freedom such that even a lone, irrational dissent has to be respected. The report's notion of freedom is one that respects minimal unity, but no more--the individuals that make up the unity remain, as it were, fully sovereign in the unity. The report does not defend this notion of freedom nor does it fully explain it. But it seems to presuppose the anthropological view that in optimal conditions of freedom human disagreement is inevitable (and a good thing). This go well beyond the standard Weberianism of the day, which thought that agreement over the facts was possible. In fact, the report is adamant that the university is to be constituted by the widest possible epistemic and moral diversity. This is the central "faith" of the Kalven Report about the nature of "intellectual inquiry." The university should promote this diversity as much as possible ("widest diversity of views").
As an aside, it is notable that Stigler signed up to this because when it came to the role of consensus and dissent within disciplines, he was an eager student of Merton and an early Kuhnian and thought that expert, paradigm-driven communities could safely ignore dissenters and could aim and establish consensus.
The epistemic and moral diversity has three intended consequences: first, it entails that the university produces "discontent with existing social arrangements and proposes new ones;" second, it fosters "the development of social and political values in society;" third, it generates "power" for the university--this power ("prestige and influence" ) follows from the university's "integrity and intellectual competence." The report does not explore to what degree a society will permit these three consequences, but as I note below it does address the circumstances when society challenges its independence and existence. It is quite notable that the Kalven report does not claim that there is an indirect utility in technological applications. (There is no engineering school at Chicago.) This goes back to Hutchins's oft-quoted (1929) statement:
My view of university training is to unsettle the minds of young men,+ to widen their horizons, to inflame their intellects. It is not a hardening, or settling process. Education is not to teach men facts, theories, or laws; it is not to reform them, or amuse them, or to make them expert technicians in any field; it is to teach them to think, to think straight if possible; but to think always for themselves.
Despite the fact that the report celebrates cognitive diversity, it proudly notes a "deep consensus," [and here I'll resist making fun of that 'deep'] among itself. Even so, George Stigler appended a "special comment:"
I agree with the report as drafted, except for the statements in the fifth paragraph from the end as to the the role of the university when it is acting in its corporate capacity. As to this matter, I would prefer the statement in the following form:
The university when it acts in its corporate capacity as employer and property owner should, of course, conduct its affairs with honor. The university should not use these corporate activities to foster any moral or political values because use of its facilities will impair its integrity as the home of intellectual freedom.
For those unfamiliar with the complex evolution of thought of Chicago economics, it is somewhat surprising to see one of the two leaders of the school (the other being Stigler's close friend, Milton Friedman), of all people, to appeal to honour. It's less surprising when one realizes that in 1967 Stigler was not yet the economist, who penned (with Gary Becker) "De gustibus non est disputandum." Rather he is the (by then accomplished) student of Frank Knight, who taught that considerations of honor were ineliminable from modern society, even a socialist one.**
Stigler's main point is that the university as a corporate body should maintain a kind of strict neutrality about moral and political values. This Weberianism came naturally to him. (Knight was an early translator of Weber, and Stigler was a keen reader of (early) Talcott Parsons in his scholarly youth.) In fact, on this point Stigler does not depart from the majority of the Kalven report. The report treats the university's neutrality as a (partial?) condition of possibility of its members to engage in political action and social protests" as individuals."
So, what's Stigler opposing?
In that fifth paragraph from below, the Kalven report first explains how the university must act in cases of 'crisis' when its survival is threatened by outsiders. The consensus (including Stigler's) is that then the university must act (it is an 'obligation') to "defend its interests" as a corporate body. Obviously, this opens the door to abuse (not everybody will agree that the state of emergency or the state of necessity is upon us); and so we can safely assume that the Kalven report also quietly presupposes views about judicious leadership.
Rather, Stigler disagrees with the 'deep consensus' only when the majority of the Kalven report go on to argue that in cases when the university comes into conflict with existing social values when it acts as a corporate entity (involving property, income, its awarding of honors, and its membership in other bodies) over and beyond the intellectual activity of its members, that then the situation requires "careful assessment of the consequences." That is to say, the majority of the Kalven report is allowing that the university may adjust its corporate course when it comes into conflict with the rest of society over its corporate activities. It may even adjust its principles and avoid granting honors to socially controversial agents. (The implied contrast is that the university is not supposed to compromise on the intellectual freedom of the students and faculty to research, teach, invite speakers, etc.)
Stigler, by contrast, is not allowing the possibility of a conflict between the university as a corporate body and social values because he thinks it is possible and desirable for the university as a corporate body to maintain a strict neutrality. Leaving aside if such strict neutrality is genuinely possible (and desirable), it is worth noting that it's this notion of corporate neutrality, (with extreme partiality of its members), that allows him to think that a university as a corporate body can avoidthe possibility of tragic choices. That's to say, Stigler thinks one can avoid politics (or judgment) by a certain institutional posture--here Stigler flirts with a technocratic conception of the corporate body. Even so he is aware -- he helped pioneer the arguments in modern economics -- that officers of the corporate body and its members may well have incentives to pursue otherwise (than neutrality). In his dissent, Stigler, thus, presuppose public spirited university administrators who know how to maintain the stance of neutrality, while the majority of the Kalven committee recognizes that if one wishes to ensure the survival of the academy, politics cannot be eliminated.