The Ross Case



The AAUP’s first investigation of dismissals of faculty members was at the University of Utah in 1915. However, two such investigations preceded the founding of the AAUP. Each of these investigations, that of the Edward Ross case at Stanford University in 1901 and of the John Mecklin case at Lafayette College in 1913, was led by a professor who played an active part in the founding and early activities of the Association. The former was chaired by E.R.A. Seligman and the latter by Arthur Lovejoy.

The Ross case is perhaps the most well-known historical academic freedom case. Edward Ross (1866-1951, pictured above), who had been recruited by President David Starr Jordan, first fell afoul of the only trustee of the university, Leland Stanford’s widow Jane, when he publicly supported the views of presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in 1896. Advocating, like Bryan, for the monetization of silver, Ross’s activities fell within his area of professional competence as an economist. Although other faculty who had spoken publicly on behalf of Republican candidate William McKinley were not reprimanded, Jane Stanford asked for Ross to be dismissed over his support for Bryan. Continue reading

Paternalism As Oppression

When I read what Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald emailed his team recently, all I could think of was my father:

“Understand that by voting to have a union, you would be transferring your trust from those you know — me, your coaches and the administrators here — to what you don’t know — a third party who may or may not have the team’s best interests in mind.”

It’s not that my father was particularly paternalistic–he was not–but that Fitzgerald is illustrating one of his four styles of leadership, but not one we should be proud to promote. Continue reading

Koch Kollege?

John Romano, writing in the Tampa Bay Times over the weekend, reviews the connection between Charles Koch and Florida State University, a problematic connection (and not the only one of its type) that has been under scrutiny for at least three years now:

The relationship at FSU drew howls of protest in 2011 when a couple of professors uncovered a memorandum that indicated Koch could wield considerable influence over the hiring of professors and some of the curriculum in economics classes.

FSU officials initially denied he had that type of power on campus, but a Faculty Senate review determined the agreement with Koch had several troublesome features. The school vowed to fix the agreement and the story soon disappeared from the headlines.

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Backseat Driving in the Clown Car

Backseat driving in the clown car: that’s what pundits are about, today.

In The New York Times, David Brooks tries to turn that around, making out that is those who disagree with him who have the red noses and squeeze horns. He mounts a defense of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) based on the idea that those he shills for are the wise and considerate and caring–and that everyone else is either raw material or the lunatic fringe (both left and right).

Education, to Brooks, “is to get students competitive with their international peers.” What the students need in their personal lives, or want, these don’t matter. What communities need, in terms of citizens and contributing members, doesn’t matter. And anyone who disagrees with Brooks and those he advocates for is a nut. A clown. Continue reading

James McKeen Cattell



One of the less-frequently mentioned founders of the AAUP is Columbia University psychologist James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944). Cattell was perhaps the most prominent academic gadfly of his time. He publicly called for the creation of the Association in 1912 and helped organize its founding, but never played a role in its leadership.

As editor of Science and several other academic journals, Cattell regularly commented on higher education in his publications and authored  a series of articles outlining his views on reforming academic governance, which he subsequently published as the book University Control in 1913. A fierce critic of Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler and the office of the university president in American higher education in general, Cattell exclaimed “In the academic jungle the president is my black beast.” His detailed proposals on reforming the university included the election of the president by the faculty and of the governing board by the faculty, the other officers of the university, and the alumni. Continue reading

Strike Averted at University of Illinois at Chicago

News from the University of Illinois at Chicago faculty union (an AAUP/AFT joint union):

“STRIKE AVERTED- University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty (Local 6456) has successfully negotiated a tentative agreement on labor contracts for tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty!”

We posted several articles during the earlier February 18 & 19 strike, including from Howard Bunsis and Jane Buck. Another strike was planned to begin on April 23.

Different Understandings of Academic Freedom

I’m going to disagree with the arguments in Aaron Barlow’s post earlier today about the meaning of academic freedom. When Patrick Deneen described academic freedom as permitting “the airing and defense of any and all views,” I think he was absolutely right (although Deneen did it in order to criticize academic freedom, arguing that “academic freedom is not a particularly conservative principle”).

Barlow tells us that academic freedom “was intended as a particular right of the faculty granted for quite specific purposes–and with clear limitations.”Indeed, that’s quite true, but only if you keep the past tense intact.

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Please Stand with the Educators and Academic Professionals at Portland State University!

By a 94%-6% margin, the AAUP chapter at Portland State University has voted to strike on April 16 if substantive progress has not been made in their contract negotiations with their administration.

They ask that you show your support for that vote by signing this petition:

They were initially hoping to get at least 1,000 signatures on the petition. They have already surpassed that goal.

The chapter leadership feels very strongly that Portland State University is headed in the wrong direction. The faculty and academic professionals are fighting for a contract that will refocus the university on academic priorities and, in the process, contribute to the broader defense quality public higher education. Continue reading

Columbia College Chicago Restores Second Section of Controversial Class

Peter Kirstein notes on his blog about an important development in a recent case: “Columbia College in Chicago is offering two sections of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict course in their fall 2014 semester offerings. Instructor Iymen Chehade has been in the middle of a major academic freedom case concerning a prior reduction of sections of this class. It is to the credit of Columbia College that they have shown the flexibility and the commitment to academic freedom to restore the offering of two and not merely one section of this heavily enrolled course.”

Read more about the case in the Chicago Reader, and a statement by Guy Davidi, the co-director of 5 Broken Cameras, the Oscar-nominated documentary that sparked one student complaint last fall about bias after Chehade showed it in his class about Israel and Palestine, which was shortly followed by one out of two sections of the class being cancelled for Spring 2014. The Illinois AAUP’s Committee A (of which I am a member) issued a report about the case, along with a response from Columbia College (which denied that the complaint had any role in cancellation of the section).


Three Years Ago, Senate Bill 5 Was Signed into Law in Ohio

This is a post by John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP and the author of Collective Bargaining and The Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) [].

Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda­, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept. Continue reading