Fearing Libel, Cambridge University Press Rejects a Book

Cambridge University Press has decided not to publish a book about corruption in Russia by Karen Dawisha out of fears that British libel law would leave it vulnerable to litigation. In response to the letter from Cambridge University Press, Dawisha wrote the following open letter.

By Karen Dawisha, Miami University

Thank you for the recent letter setting out CUP’s ultimate decision not to proceed with my book on the origins of Putin’s corrupt system.

I appreciated your statement that “the decision has nothing to do with the quality of your research or your scholarly credibility. It is simply a question of risk tolerance in light of our limited resources.” I also accept your advice that the manuscript would likely not face the same kind of challenge in the U.S. where, as your letter puts it, “the book would benefit dramatically from the ‘public figure’ defence.”

Of course, as we have talked about previously, I will pursue American publishing options. But I hope you will at the same time entertain some of my own further thoughts on the matter.

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Cops and Robbers at the University of Southern Maine

This guest post was written by Michael DeCesare, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Merrimack College and President of the AAUP Chapter there.

At a special meeting of the University of Southern Maine (USM) faculty senate on March 14th, USM President Theodora Kalikow announced her plan to eliminate four academic programs and lay off 20 to 30 faculty—including tenured and tenure-track professors—along with 10 to 20 staff. What was the ostensible purposes of these unilateral decisions? To “re-brand” USM from a liberal arts institution into a “metropolitan university” and to make up $7M of a $14M shortfall. Martin Kich reported on these austerity cuts on this blog a week ago.

To this point, neither USM nor the University of Maine (UM) System has declared financial exigency. The supposed severity of the budget shortfall was quickly shown by Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women’s and gender studies at USM, to be a flimsy justification for firing faculty and closing programs. As Paul Krugman put it in his New York Times blog last week, USM’s administration “seems eager to downsize liberal arts and social sciences for reasons that go beyond money.” Continue reading

Tenure, The Presidential Veto and Abuse of Power

Guest Blogger Douglas Boyd is a Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.

The 1966 “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities” (adopted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) (http://www.aaup.org/report/), the Association of Governing Boards of Universities (AGBU), the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU)) stipulates unequivocally that “faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility; this area includes appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint,…” Importantly, many universities including ours (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), as members of these organizations, should follow these espoused principles. That said, a growing concern is that administrations at US academic institutions, including ours, are increasingly rendering tenure decisions contrary to the recommendations made by the faculty body responsible for evaluation of applications.

A presidential reversal of a recommendation made by the aforementioned faculty body has recently been in the academic spotlight with the AAUP investigating the case of an Assistant Professor denied tenure by the President at Northeastern Illinois University despite a unanimous recommendation by their Promotions and Tenure committee (PTC). In their report (Academe Dec 2013) the AAUP sided with the Assistant Professor concluding that the “President’s stated reasons lack credibility as grounds of denying tenure.” The AAUP, following the 1966 Statement on Government, stated that the “final decision lodged in the governing board …should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances and for reasons communicated to the faculty.” Continue reading

No Credit for the Accreditor: It’s Time to Revise These Revisions

Guest Blogger Beth Evans is an Associate Professor of Library Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Whether you believe that a library on your campus supports learning and research through print and electronic collections, or that the information literacy skills learned through research are integral to a college education, your thinking is in line with that of many educators, but may not be heading in the same direction as that of the policy makers at one of the major accrediting organizations.

Academic librarians became alarmed earlier this year when they learned of the proposed revisions to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) “Characteristics of Excellence,” the standards document that is used to evaluate the worthiness of a college or university.  The new guidelines reduce a 75 page document down to a scant 20 pages and reduce the number of standards by half, from 14 to seven. Continue reading

Interview with Matthew Abraham

Matthew Abraham’s new book, Out of Bounds: Academic Freedom and the Question of Palestine, examines intellectual freedom and the Israel-Palestine debate in America. Illinois Academe editor John K. Wilson conducted this interview via email with Abraham, who has served on the Illinois AAUP Council and the Illinois AAUP’s Committee A.

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“Cultural Taxation”—A Stealth Killer of Professional Careers

This is a guest post by Cecil Canton, a professor of criminal justice at CSU Sacramento. He is also associate vice-president for affirmative action at the California Faculty Association and is on the executive committee of the AAUP-CBC.

Every tenure-track faculty member in the Academy, neophyte or seasoned veteran, is responsible for teaching courses, building a record of scholarship, and providing service to the institution to meet the standards of the retention, promotion, and tenure process.

These processes take on increased and amplified weight for underrepresented faculty and faculty of color in predominantly white institutions. Continue reading

Adjunct Narratives

This post is cross-posted from Yellow Dog with the permission of its author, Jeff Rice of the University of Kentucky.

First person narratives about the adjunct experience in academia are being published – it seems – daily. Today, I came across a link from a Facebook friend about a Fairbanks, Alaska adjunct on food stamps.  A link to a story about motherhood and adjuncting was also shared with me today. The Chronicle of Higher Education has become the mouthpiece for such narratives, all of which are anti-tenure track faculty and all of which believe in the great injustice that has been done within higher education. I read this narratives almost every day. I’m interested in the rhetoric of narrative, so whatever I feel about the adjunct experience, I am interested in how adjuncts are telling their story.

Why now? Why the sudden proliferation of adjunct narratives, a frenzy of pieces that rival the popularity of online essays regarding MOOCs a year ago. During that period, one couldn’t avoid either a hyperbolic praising of MOOCs or a dismissal of MOOCs in any given business or education online outlet. That frenzy is now a trickle of updates. It has died down. Continue reading

Public Intellectuals and the AAUP

This is a guest post by Ellen Schrecker, a professor of history emerita at Yeshiva University. She also is a former editor of Academe and served on the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Her article, “One Historian’s Perspective on Academic Freedom and the AAUP,” is in the January-February issue of Academe.

Since I no longer edit Academe, I don’t get to see its articles until they are published. The recent issue, with its focus on public intellectuals (however one wants to define them), could not be both more and less timely. If nothing else, it shows us how quickly the world of higher education changes. Continue reading

Swartz, Mehanna, and the Freedom to Dissent

This is a guest post by Rebecca Gould, a professor at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. Her article, “Aaron Swartz’s Legacy.” appears in the January-February issue of Academe.

Aaron Swartz is gone but his legacy lives on. In my article for the current issue of Academe, I offered a few reasons why his brief life, including his prosecution, is worth remembering. Here are a few more ways in which Swartz’s tragedy intersects with the broader political world.

The same year that Swartz was charged with downloading too many articles, and in the same city, Boston, Egyptian-American dissident Tarek Mehanna faced similar accusations from the office of the same prosecutor, Carmen Ortiz. In the years leading up to his arrest, while Swartz was busy promoting his agenda of global open access, Mehanna was busy discussing the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in online forums, and translating Arabic materials on Islam into English. Mehanna argued for the right of Muslim peoples invaded by other countries to self-defense. He discouraged his fellow Muslims from gratuitous acts of violence, but defended anti-American violence in contexts where he perceived this violence to be legitimate. Continue reading

A Look at the University Caste System

This guest post was written by Leemon McHenry, a lecturer in philosophy at California State University, Northridge. His article, “Of Brahmins and Dalits in the Academic Caste System” (co-written with Paul Sharkey), appears in the January-February 2014 issue of Academe.

In “Of Brahmins and Dalits in the Academic Caste System,” (Academe, Jan-Feb 2014) Sharkey and I blame the corporatization of the university for creating the academic caste system.  Clare Goldstene agrees when she notes that opponents of tenure began the slow and deliberate move toward academic contingency over the past thirty years under the guise of fiscal emergency. (“The Politics of Contingent Academic Labor.” Thought & Action, 2012.) Continue reading