According to a recent article in University World News, Global Edition, “China has stepped up pressure on ethnic minority students and lecturers in the restive northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, insisting that students must pass a test of political views and declare their allegiance to the Chinese state in order to graduate.”
Near the end of the article, the author quotes from Global Times, a party publication: “’The principals and the party secretaries in local universities agreed that the education system is one of the main battlefields against separatism, so being politically qualified is the prime request.’”
And the article closes with a quote from Li Zhongyao, party secretary of Xinjiang University, who was speaking at a regional education conference: “’University students should safeguard ethnic unity and oppose separatism and that is the most important task of Xinjiang universities.” Continue reading
South Carolina lawmakers have reduced the allocations to the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate because the lawmakers object to the inclusion of several “gay-themed” books in the institutions’ common required readings for their first-year students. The College of Charleston was docked $52,000, the amount spent on copies of Fun Home, and the University of South Carolina Upstate was docked $17,000, the amount spent on copies of Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio.
Fun Home is a graphic memoir written by Alison Bechdel, the creator of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In addition to attracting much attention for provocatively extending the graphic novel to the genre of the memoir, the book received critical praise for its treatment of the difficulties in growing up in an environment not only pointedly unsympathetic to non-heterosexual gender identities and sexual orientations but also not especially nourishing of heterosexual relationships. A New York Times bestseller in 2006, the book was included in a number of “best-of” lists for the year and the decade, and it was nominated for a number of prestigious awards.
Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio is an anthology put together by Ed Madden, who hosts a weekly gay-themed radio talk show that airs in Columbia, South Carolina. One of South Carolina’s most notable young poets, Madden has also produced noteworthy scholarship on contemporary poetry. He has served as the president of the American Conference of Irish Studies, Southern Region, and as the president of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement.
In short, neither of these books can be described as a hastily or poorly considered selection—unless your ideological perspective is so rigid that you think that any exposure to gay or lesbian writing poses a threat to your sanctity of mind. Continue reading
If American higher education is going to continue to aspire to excellence, its institutions need to address and reverse the growing reliance on adjuncts as teachers. Not only is this exploitative of the adjuncts (to say nothing of the students), but it reduces our colleges and universities to factories, effectively excluding academic freedom and removing research components from teaching responsibilities. Two of the three aspects of a professor’s job, teaching, scholarship and service, are eliminated, for adjuncts are expected to do nothing but complete classroom activities.
Though reliance on adjuncts has risen primarily because it is a cheap alternative to tenured and tenure-track faculty, it also fits into the corporate top-down models of governance, models of efficiency that see shared governance as a waste of time and energy. To date, college and university administrations have been given little incentive to move in another direction. To them, use of adjuncts provides a situation where they not only save money but they get rid of pesky faculty involvement in what they see as exclusively their own responsibilities. They are not going to make a change unless countering incentives, or new oversight structures, are offered.
It’s nice to see that the plight of adjuncts is finally getting play in American media. The New York Times, for example, ran an editorial today that ends: Continue reading
Today, in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof presents a column headlined “Professors, We Need You!” He wonders what has happened to those of us in academia, ending with these words:
I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!
One of the things this blog, Academe magazine and the entire AAUP is fighting for is just this, to bring professors out of ivory towers and into the public sphere where they belong. In the spirit of John Dewey (as I title my editorial in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Academe), we refuse to hide away, talking only to each other. Continue reading
In a recent op-ed piece on the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s Worldwide blog, Dzulkifli Abdul Razak responded to an article written by Nigel Thrift, vice chancellor of the University of Warwick. Thrift had argued for the creation of an international association of colleges and universities, suggesting that it would not only facilitate efforts to meet the common challenges confronting institutions, but it would also promote higher education as a global resource in meeting broader socio-economic challenges.
Razak, the president of the International Association of Universities, pointed out that his organization already exists and is committed to the core aims delineated by Thrift. I am not sure whether Thrift’s apparent lack of awareness of Razak’s organization demonstrates his own limited perspective or the limited reach of the organization, or both. But, since I was also completely unaware of the International Association of Universities, I sense that the that organization either has considerably more work to do in becoming more truly representative and effective, or that it somehow is not meeting the need that both Thrift and Razak articulate very convincingly.
Coincidentally, as I have been collecting materials for this blog, I have become much more acutely aware that the challenges that we are facing as faculty at American institutions are not unique to our country—that those challenges are not only being confronted by faculty in nations around the globe but they are often complicated by socio-economic, political, and cultural factors that make them much more difficult and even hazardous to confront. Continue reading
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.
Whatever you might think of the American Studies Association’s stance on boycotting Israel, the attempted legal “remedies” have to be seen as worse. Pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel, or a pox on both houses… it shouldn’t matter. The implications for academic freedom carried in the various bills should bother anyone who cares about this great tradition of our universities.
Legislators in New York and Maryland are both using the occasion to restrict academic freedom… and now members of Congress are jumping on the bandwagon:
The “Protect Academic Freedom Act,” jointly filed by House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.) could serve as a deterrent to other groups considering Israeli boycotts.
It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 “to prohibit an institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars from being eligible” to receive federal funds, according to text of the legislation.
In a bizarre reversal of logic, Roskam claims that “This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts.” Follow this logic and you will eventually come up with an Orwellian “freedom is slavery.” Continue reading
In a well-meaning article for The New York Times, Wharton professor Adam Grant proposes trifurcating tenure, slashing it apart, essentially, in order to save it. He ends by writing:
Dividing tenure tracks may be what economists call a Pareto improvement: It benefits one group without hurting another. Let’s reserve teaching for professors with the relevant passion and skill — and reward it. Sharing knowledge with students should be a privilege of tenure, not an obligation.
That sounds nice; there certainly is an appeal to splitting the tenured into researchers, teachers, and researcher/teachers and giving each differing requirements. After all, we split our universities into research institutions (generally universities), more traditionally student-centered colleges, and community colleges. Why shouldn’t tenure reflect that split? Continue reading
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.”