The American Council of Trustees and Alumni presented the Jerry L. Martin Prize for Excellence in Trusteeship to Paul Levy at its annual ATHENA Roundtable conference on October 12 in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Levy was honored for the principled stand he took in defense of academic freedom. Instead of remaining silent in the face of the mistreatment of Penn law school professor Amy Wax by faculty and the school’s administration, Mr. Levy resigned from Penn’s Board of Overseers and the Penn Board of Trustees, releasing a widely publicized letter detailing the school’s affront to freedom of expression.
“Today it is our privilege to bestow this award, because Paul Levy has behaved in a way that sets a new standard for higher education governance,” said ACTA President, Michael Poliakoff. “When the University of Pennsylvania shunned and punished distinguished law professor, Amy Wax, there was only one institutional voice that spoke in her defense. And it was Paul Levy.”
Dr. Poliakoff presented Mr. Levy with a 1791 print of Benjamin Franklin, who was a founding trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. In making the presentation, Dr. Poliakoff recalled Franklin’s famous response to a woman who asked him at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 what kind of government the new nation would have. “A republic, if you can keep it!” Franklin replied.
“Paul Levy forces higher education to confront the question: A true place of learning, can we keep it?” remarked Dr. Poliakoff.
Jerry Martin, after whom the award is named, was ACTA’s founding president from 1995 to 2003. He has had a long and distinguished career in the academy, higher education policy, and government service including senior positions at the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he served as both assistant chairman and acting chairman.
“Whether one agrees with an idea put forth by Professor Wax – or anyone else, for that matter,” Mr. Levy observed, “to silence, shun, and sanction a colleague for expressing an opinion is a negation of the values that define a liberal education and a free society. I am glad to have found in ACTA an ally in the campaign to make American higher education once again a sanctuary for unfettered inquiry and the free exchange of ideas.”
To watch a video interview with Paul Levy concerning Penn’s limitation of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, click here >>
ACTA is an independent, nonprofit organization committed to academic excellence, academic freedom, and accountability (the ACTA “Three A’s”) at America’s colleges and universities. Founded in 1995, ACTA is the only national organization dedicated to working with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the U.S. to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality education at an affordable price. Our network consists of alumni from nearly 1,300 colleges and universities, including over 23,000 current board members. To learn more about ACTA’s mission and projects, please visit www.goacta.org.