It used to be that a Republican presidential candidate speaking at Liberty University was controversial because of the institution’s repressive, far-right-wing politics. Now, the controversy goes the other way. Mitt Romney is being attacked by students at Liberty University because he has been invited to be this year’s commencement speaker. That’s controversial because Romney is a Mormon, and the evangelical Liberty University doesn’t regard Mormons as meeting their definition of Christianity.
The following is a guest post by Michael DeCesare, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Merrimack College.
“Tenured Professor Is Placed on Leave After Showing a Film About Pornography” was one of the headlines screeching across the April 20 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The case of that tenured professor, sociologist Jammie Price of Appalachian State University, is deeply disturbing.
In fact, the headline itself is troubling, since Dr. Price neither showed a “film about pornography” nor was “placed on leave” because she showed it. What she showed in her class was a widely used anti-pornography documentary–which was produced by the acclaimed Media Education Foundation and which Dr. Price borrowed from ASU’s library–called “The Price of Pleasure.” And Dr. Price was placed on leave, apparently, for a variety of reasons, according to ASU vice provost Anthony Gene Carey: she showed the documentary in her introductory sociology course; she “failed to warn students” about the content of the documentary; she disparaged student athletes; she talked about her personal life and political views in her classroom; she stated that she did not like working at ASU; and she criticized the ASU administration.
Seriously? Which one was it?
On the blog of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), its longtime president Anne Neal writes about the election of Rudy Fichtenbaum as the new president of the AAUP. Her alarmist rhetoric not only distorts what the AAUP does today, but fundamentally rewrites the history of the AAUP in a completely misleading way.
Neal writes, “one cannot help but view with alarm the results of the AAUP elections, which in large measure suggest that the AAUP has now positioned itself as a faculty labor union advocating for faculty rights rather than enforcing faculty ethical obligations.” Of course, the AAUP has been a faculty labor union advocating for faculty rights for more than 40 years now. The phrase “enforcing faculty ethical obligations” is the evasive code language that ACTA uses for its goal of purging left-wing faculty who express political views. The AAUP has never done this, and never will. The AAUP for a century has advocated for faculty rights and never enforced the “ethical obligations” of individual faculty.
Before departing for their two week break, Michigan’s House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education issued a group of policy recommendations tied to new funding. One recommendation in particular, tries to force public universities to sell their academic freedom or risk losing new state money. Section 273a threatens the state appropriations of any Michigan public university that ”collaborates” with any “nonprofit worker center”. Mind you, the legislature has yet to define either term.
The AAUP today released an important new report on the violation of faculty rights at two Louisiana public universities, Northwestern State University and Southeastern Louisiana University (pdf of full report).
AAUP Associate General Secretary Jordan Kurland called it, “the worst situation the AAUP has encountered of using cutbacks in funding as an opportunity to select unwanted tenured professors for release.” In some cases, the tenured professors were fired and then offered jobs teaching their old courses at less than half the pay.
Cases like these should reveal what a lie it is to call a tenured professorship a “job for life.” In reality, plenty of tenured professors get fired, some of them for good reasons. No one, especially not the AAUP, has ever said that tenure means a job for life. The purpose of tenure is to prevent the arbitrary firing of long-term faculty, which often happens for political reasons. Tenure is simply a requirement for due process. And cases like what happened in Louisiana in the wake of Katrina show what would happen constantly in an academic world without tenure.
By annetteboardman (annetteboardman is a pseudonym of a college professor who teaches at a university in Missouri). This essay originally appeared on DailyKos.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to work anymore, that I have permission to never update a class, or get grading done in a timely manner. Perhaps you thought it meant that I didn’t need to actually make any challenging assignments, or perhaps do just a bubble-sheet midterm and final, and perhaps a three page paper that I wouldn’t give any feedback on except for a letter grade at the top.
The Missouri state senate this week passed a bill (it still has to go to the House) for school teachers. They wanted to get rid of tenure altogether. But they compromised by making it ten years in the same school district (you start over again if you change districts). You know, if you don’t threaten people with losing their livelihoods, why would they work to do a good job?
Student Veterans of America (SVA) is a national organization dedicated to helping veterans “succeed in higher education and following graduation.” The SVA has a strong emphasis on student leadership and building connections between veterans in higher ed to help them adjust to life out of the military and in school. That’s why SVA leaders were so alarmed that forty for-profit institutions’ chapters are seemingly run by administrators, not students. Those schools—which were not named by the SVA—have had their chapter memberships revoked.
UPDATE: Yesterday, Chicago State reversed course and eliminated this policy.
On March 22, Chicago State University’s Office of Marketing & Communication announced a new Communications and Media Relations Policy that may be the most repressive speech code ever enacted at a university. Taken literally, it appears to ban all faculty communications, anywhere. AAUP president Cary Nelson told the Chicago Tribune, “this policy is an obscenity and absurdity and is not tolerable.”
Here are a few excerpts from the policy, posted in full by the CSU Faculty Voice Blog (which is presumably now banned):
The Center for the Future of Higher Education—the “virtual think tank” of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education—has released its first report, Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college. It’s written by Gary Rhoades, former general secretary of the AAUP, and in the report, Rhoadesexplains that more than 400,000 students are turned away from community colleges each year, simply because schools do not have the necessary funding to meet demand. Continue reading
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has issued a new report about California universities based upon false evidence, distorted anecdotes, random online postings, and a series of terrible arguments that are fundamentally contrary to academic freedom and the idea of the university as a place for the free debate of ideas.
What the NAS calls for is a kind of a new McCarthyism, where Regents and administrators ban the use of funds for events deemed “political,” force the hiring of unqualified conservative professors, and silence professors as “political” if they criticize the government in class or stray from the preferred conservative ideology of the NAS.
“A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California” is a new report issued from the California Association of Scholars and the National Association of Scholars’ Center for the Study of the Curriculum.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum apparently read the report, too, and embraced its loony vision of a vast left-wing conspiracy on campus to destroy education: