The Case for Academics as Public Intellectuals

The January-February issue of Academe marks a major milestone for the AAUP: It’s issue 1 of Volume 100. As we begin the celebration of the AAUP’s centennial, Nicholas Behm, Sherry Rankins-Robertson, and Duane Roen look to one of the AAUP’s founders, John Dewey, for a model of academic as public intellectual. There have been other since Dewey, including many today, but the authors argue that in general, academics need to make sure their research and work is getting to the public. That means learning not only how to work with the media, but how to speak about often technical subjects in a way that the general public can understand.

Read “The Case for Academics as Public Intellectuals” on the AAUP website, and stay tuned for more information on the AAUP centennial.

Tenure-Track and Tenuous Track

The AAUP has long been sounding the alarm about the problematic rise of contingent faculty appointments, which generally come with no job security, few if any benefits, and a fraction of the salary that a tenured or tenure-track faculty member can expect. In the January-February issue of Academe, Chris Nagel looks at the question from an ethical perspective; using Foucault’s concepts of subjections and subjectivation, Nagel probes the question of whether it is ethical for faculty to accept contingent appointments, and in so doing implicitly endorse the contingent model. The article concludes with a consideration of possible ways for faculty to resist the rise of contingency.

The Ethics of Tenuous Faculty” is now posted on the AAUP website.

12 Angry Professors? (Not Quite)

How is a courtroom like a classroom? The two may not seem related – but as Patricia Evridge Hill writes in the new issue of Academe, they are more alike than you might think. While serving as the foreperson of a jury recently, Hill realized that the eleven other members of her group had a lot in common with a small college seminar. And, after all, the job of both the academic and the member of the jury is to look through evidence in search of truth.

So Hill approached the organization of the jury just like a college discussion section – splitting into groups of three to discuss each member’s view of the case, and challenging people to question which parts of the evidence were most reliable. To read the entire article (and find out if the defendant was found guilty or not guilty!) head over to the AAUP website.

Participate or Perish – New Issue of Academe available now

The new issue of Academe, which looks at the public policy landscape for higher ed, has just been posted online.

The issue is guest-edited by Brian Turner, a professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia and chair of the AAUP’s Government Relations Committee. Turner tells a story in his introduction to the issue which is very telling: He writes that when he started organizing lobbying days for faculty to speak with members of the Virginia legislature and their staffs, the officeholders were confused: Didn’t they already know about higher ed issues? After all, they met with college presidents and administrators all the time! It had never occurred to them until those meetings that the faculty might have views and opinions different from the administration. Needless to say, those meetings have become a regular feature of the Virginia state conference.

In this issue, our authors describe the current state of politics and policy on higher ed. In Ohio, the state legislature is no longer responsive to the will of the people – so popular ballot initiatives have become the best way to make changes in policy. Across the country, states are racing to implement performance-based funding for higher ed. In California, state employee pensions are coming under attack. In Kentucky, the state’s higher education board now includes a faculty representative, who writes about her experiences. And in Washington, DC, the National Labor Relations Board is considering a case that could dramatically expand the opportunities to bargain collectively at private institutions. 

All this in addition to our usual columns, book reviews and association news. Take a look at the November-December 2013 issue of Academe

Now Online: Journal of Academic Freedom Volume 4

In 2010, the AAUP began publication of the Journal of Academic Freedom, an annual, online-only publication. Each year, we’ve published articles on current issues in academic freedom, and this year we are proud to announce that the fourth volume is now available on our website.

Volume 4 of JAF focuses on issues of academic freedom in a global context. Many of the articles focus on the proposed boycott of Israeli institutions: would a boycott violate the academic freedom of Israeli faculty? Would it violate the academic freedom of American faculty who would be discouraged from collaborating with their Israeli colleagues? What about the academic freedom of faculty at Palestinian institutions – would a boycott lead to greater academic freedom later on? These issues and more are discussed from different perspectives in the issue.

There are also two articles not on the topic of boycotts; one looks at how professors are slowly losing sovereignty in their own classrooms, and the other argues that our concepts of academic freedom need to be reoriented to reflect the rise in contingent faculty in recent years.

You can read the introduction to the issue here, and the list of articles with links to PDFs here. The Journal of Academic Freedom‘s articles are open to all readers; you do not need a subscription or membership to read them. We hope you enjoy this volume!

“Rutgers, Inc.”

For his piece in the September-October issue of Academe, William Vesterman looks back – way back – and learns contemporary lessons from early twentieth-century economist Thorstein Veblen.

Vesterman, a professor at Rutgers, explains the shameful scandal of Mike Rice, the Rutgers basketball coach who was fired after his abusive practices became public. Unfortunately, the university’s president had known about the abuse for months before it became public. The university ultimately paid Rice nearly $500,000 in severance, money that surely would have been welcomed by faculty, departments, libraries, or other academic aspects of the school. Vesterman shows that this unfortunate state of affairs was described by Veblen more than one hundred years ago:

One may find a football or baseball coach . . . carried on the academic pay-roll, in a university that practices a penurious economy in the equipment and current supply of materials and services necessary for the work of its scientific laboratories, and whose library is in a shameful state of neglect for want of adequate provision for current purchases and attendance.

By juxtaposing quotes from Rutgers’s president and Veblen, Vesterman makes a strong case that the current corporatization of the university is a process that has been going on at least since the turn of the twentieth century. Read the full article to see what lessons we can learn from the past.

“Faculty Governance in the New University”

At this point, no one can deny that higher education has changed seriously over the last few decades. Call it corporatization, or administrative bloat, or any other name, but the symptoms are clear: more administrative control over things that had been the faculty’s. Faculty governance becoming a mere rubber stamp for administrators’ proposals. Less funding for teaching and research, more funding for new dorms, student centers, and gyms. How did this happen? And did we notice these changes at the time?

Leslie Bary tries to make sense of the “new university,” especially the role that faculty governance can play in undoing some of the damage. She writes:

We should learn to see clearly where we are, so that we can be effective as we take up once again—yes, take up once again—the “unified” role of the faculty member. We should take up once again the responsibilities deconstructed out of us. We should work to strengthen what is left in the university that is genuine, which is to say everything that is more than a semblance or a marketing maneuver.

Read the full article here.

“What Do We Know about Teaching Online?”

Online teaching remains one of the most talked-about topics of the day in higher education, and there are no shortage of studies on the topic. Do students learn more online? Do they learn less? Do they learn slightly less, but maybe it saves so much money that administrators will still find it appealing? But left relatively undiscussed is another question faculty might have: what is it like to teach online?

Helena Worthen reports on a new survey from COCAL (the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor) that asked faculty members about their online courses. She discusses the data in the September-October issue of Academe, exploring questions like: Why do faculty teach online? Who develops the courses? Who owns the courses?

Worthen also helps break down the data by institution type, to see, for example, to see how teachers at for-profit schools get paid relative to those at community colleges, public state universities, and private schools. Take a look at the rest of the data and Worthen’s analysis in Academe

“Open Textbook Publishing”

When Joe Moxley first published Writing Commons, an online textbook, the copyright (as is common) was held by his publisher, Pearson. After five years, their ownership of the work ended and the copyright belonged to Moxley again. He realized that he now had a number of interesting options for the future of his work. After considering the different possibilities, he decided to self-publish the book online under a Creative Commons license.

In his article in the new issue of Academe, Moxley uses his experience as a lens to discuss Creative Commons and other forms of open publishing, and the benefits of publishing your work this way.

“Back to my Future”

Silvio Lacetti is a recently retired professor from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. While attending a retirement party for a colleague, he happened upon an intriguing idea: What if, rather than having a single retirement party, he organized dozens of small dinners, with one of his old students at each? And rather than simply filing it away as an interesting idea, Lacetti decided to embark on just such an odyssey.

In his article in the September-October issue of Academe, Lacetti describes the joys and excitement of meeting up with students from the full length of his academic career. Of his students, he says, “They had become compounded versions of their younger selves, with enlarged, powerful personas, but not different. …character-wise they are who they were—only more so.” The journey was thoroughly rewarding for Lacetti and his students. Read the full story in Academe.