On March 9, 1964, the unanimous US Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, revolutionizing freedom of the press by requiring “actual malice” in defamation suits involving public figures. The case began when a fundraising ad for the civil rights movement appeared in the New York Times, criticizing violence in the segregated south. L.B. Sullivan, an obscure Montgomery commissioner unnamed in the ad, claimed that criticism of the police harmed his reputation. The Rev. Joseph Lowery is the last surviving figure in the case, and he was an accidental defendant.
UIC faculty are holding a two-day strike on Feb. 18 and 19 to protest the failure of the administration to negotiate in good faith for more than 18 months. Today, Feb. 18, there are rallies planned at 10am and 12:30pm, in addition to picketing and demonstrations. There has been news coverage in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Tribune, and an Illinois AAUP statement of support. Read an article by UIC professors Lennard Davis & Walter Benn Michaels in Jacobin explaining the reasons for the strike.
The UIC United Faculty (an AFT/AAUP union) announced a two-day strike next week:
After 18 months of bargaining, the faculty at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is headed for a two-day strike on Tuesday, February 18th and Wednesday, February 19th. UIC professors did not want it to come to this, but the trustees’ proposals continue to short change both faculty and students. UIC administration continues to hike tuition to the point it has amassed hundreds of millions in profits each year and more than a billion dollars in reserves, yet refuses to pay professors what they’re worth. Many members of the faculty who teach first-year students only make $30,000 a year!
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal argues, “What is called the problem of ‘sexual assault’ on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike.…If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn’t determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver’s sex. But when two drunken college students ‘collide,’ the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault.”
In the world of the rape deniers, forced sexual activity is simply an unfortunate “collision.” Rarely is blaming the victim so obvious, or so grotesque.
The Orwellian-named “Protect Academic Freedom Act” is not a defense of academic freedom; this is a total attack on academic freedom.
Now, you might think that it’s purely a symbolic law because no American college would ever endorse an academic boycott of Israel, and it doesn’t even apply to colleges that are institutional members of the American Studies Association (the wording requires that the organization be “significantly funded” by the institution, which the ASA and other associations clearly are not). Still, even if the proposed law was purely symbolic, it would deserve condemnation for the evil symbolism of allowing the government to dictate the policies of colleges with regard to global injustices.
But, in reality, the amendment would have a very real impact beyond mere symbolism. The proposed legislation would cut off federal funds under the Higher Education Act to all universities unless they violate the First Amendment by cutting off funding to student groups that support a boycott of Israel.
The attempt to punish academic groups that support a boycott of Israel is growing beyond New York, with a bill introduced in the Maryland legislature.
The AAUP quickly issued a statement condemning these bills: “Legislative interference in academic decision-making and with the freedom of scholars to associate and exchange views with their peers is even more dangerous than the academic boycotts this legislation is intended to oppose. That is because this legislation undermines constitutionally protected academic speech and debate in order to promote a particular viewpoint.”
The AAUP obviously has good reason to be concerned. If legislation so clearly antithetical to academic freedom can be proposed in liberal states like New York and Maryland, sponsored by Democratic representatives, then it’s easy to imagine this crusade to punish critics of Israel spreading nationwide.
The Maryland legislation is similar to the New York bill, but with a few changes that make it less repressive in some ways, and more repressive in others.
The New York Senate has passed Assembly Bill A.8392 to cut off state aid to any academic organization that supports a boycott. As the NYU AAUP noted, “Elected officials are seeking to use their fiscal powers to limit the range of academic expression simply because they disagree with its content. Passing this legislation would set a very dangerous precedent, reminiscent, for many of us, of the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era.”
Adjunct academics have been ignored, dismissed, underpaid, and exploited, but now somebody finally fears them. Unfortunately, it is a group of NIMBY residents in Evanston near Northwestern University who worry that adjunct faculty might live near them and lower property values. The Southeast Evanston Association expressed fears in an email about a proposed extended stay hotel in downtown Evanston, declaring that they want “a hotel brand that will maintain a high quality of business, and not devolve into cheap housing for transient academics.” Perhaps it is a sign of success that the problems of adjunct faculty are finally being recognized, even if it is by rich people who want to prevent their lowly presence in affordable housing.
Colorado State University at Pueblo administrators have banned email access for sociology professor Timothy McGettigan after he sent an email to people on campus criticizing the administration’s budget cuts, compared the cuts to the Ludlow Massacre a century ago by calling top administrators “hitmen,” and promoted a rally on campus to protest the proposed cuts.