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A Report from the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference

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In early November, I participated in the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference—a two-day event run by John Cochrane and Iván Marinovic, Stanford economics and business professors respectively. The organizers’ goal, announced at the outset, was to find strategies that would serve to protect the “core mission” of the scholarly community: “to debate and refine knowledge, to pass on knowledge to the next generation, and more importantly to pass on the habits and norms of critical inquiry and scholarly debate that produce true knowledge.”

Many academics had experienced job loss, punitive discipline proceedings, ideologically-motivated censorship or social ostracism in their professional environments. The list showed that they needed to recommit themselves to these principles. Jay Bhattacharya, who was a Stanford University Professor of Medicine and whose research questions the efficacy COVID lockdowns, was one of them. Bhattacharya said that he was subject to hostility at work and had faced challenges with his funding sources for more than two years. He said that you only find out how much academic freedom is available when you are in a controversial position.

Bhattacharya, however, kept his job. The same wasn’t true of conference speaker…



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