(WORT) — For Alice Dreger, academic freedom is under attack from all sides, not just from those you might expect.
Dreger is a historian of science and medicine by training. But she’s also something of a specialist in academic controversy, both in theory and in practice.
Dreger says she resigned from her position as Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University last year after administrators allowed concerns over institutional “branding” to override her academic freedom.
When Dreger first arrived there, she was best-known for her historical scholarship on the mistreatment of people born with atypical or “norm-challenging genitalia.” An advocate for intersex patient rights since the 1990s, Dreger says she challenged others to ask “Why not change minds instead of bodies?”
The Guggenheim Foundation awarded her a fellowship in 2008 to start work on a far more controversial project on academic controversies. The result of that research was published last year, and is entitled Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science.
Some of the cases she examines, especially those involving studies of transgender identity and sexuality, are ones in which she is deeply mired herself.
Dreger argues that conservative and corporate interests are not the only ones to blame for the erosion of intellectual freedom on campus.
She says progressive activists and identity politics are also part of the “toxic mix” that compromises “the pursuit of truth” among scholars like her.
Dreger talks with WORT’s Darien Lamen about the importance of academic freedom; her decision to resign in protest from Northwestern University; why she equated minority student protesters to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump; and whether academic freedom still has a fighting chance in the university.
Alice Dreger visits the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Friday, March 4th, for an event on academic freedom hosted by the WISCAPE higher education policy center.