“Academic and Publishing Freedom”?

That is the title of this Inside Higher Ed article about Christianity Today’s Books & Culture rejected an article questioning the past and future direction of Wheaton College. As someone with an MA from Wheaton I thought I might make various trenchant comments, but I will not. Just a couple of notes about the IHE article and a pointer to the article in question. Here is the basic info about the critique:

The author — Andrew Chignell, a Wheaton alumnus who is associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University — has just published the article online, along with “the back story” about how the piece was killed.

From a quick read of Chignell’s article it looks very fair to me, so give that a glance. But to turn to the IHE article I wanted to make two points. The first is minor, but annoying. Throughout the entire piece, aside from when they are quoting Chignell, they consistently misspell the Wheaton President’s name as “Liftin” instead of the accurate “Litfin.” Is it that hard to get someone’s name right?

Finally, their title is more than a bit misleading. While I do not agree with some of the directions in which Litfin has taken Wheaton he is no shrinking violet. He and the college did not, and Chignell affirms this, try and kill the story. The decision was made by Christianity Today International’s president. As Litfin told IHE,

“Even if I had the ability to stifle the article, I would not have done so,” he said. “It goes against the grain of everything I believe.”

He added: “I disagree with the article, but I don’t think the article is something we need protection from.”

So this was not a story about academic freedom, as implied in the title (but I note their insertion of “and publishing), rather it is simply an editorial decision by a private publisher. I don’t agree with CT’s decision, it was petty, shortsighted, and unnecessary, but that is their right. No doubt IHE was trying to generate interest in a story that would otherwise have a rather small audience. Still, I think the title is misleading.

UPDATE: There is a great comment on the IHE thread by David Wright , Provost at Indiana Wesleyan University. Well worth reading.

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