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Journal of Legal Education


academic freedom, legal education, law schools, legal scholarship, institutional neutrality


Our topic is whether law schools should remain institutionally neutral, presumably concerning the fundamental political and moral issues that besiege our society. The answer depends on several competing considerations, including one's concept of the university as either ivory tower or critical force obligated to serve the society that sustains it. I opt in the direction of the university as social force while also accepting the validity of the passive mode and seeing the dispassionate search for knowledge as a means to serve important human needs. The abstract formulation of the university as institutionally neutral is in many ways illusory because it stops short of understanding the true functions of knowledge, power, and mission.

The formulation I offer goes directly to the very conception of what we mean by institutional neutrality. What is it the university is to be neutral about? Obviously not knowledge, truth, precision of method, and the excitement of discovery. We must therefore be discussing the extent to which universities take stands on significant political and moral issues. And, realistically, we are not talking about institutions taking specific positions on volatile issues but about individual faculty doing so in their scholarship, their teaching, or both.