USM President Rescinds Proposed Faculty Layoffs

Those regular readers of this blog will know that we have published several posts on the proposed elimination of faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine ostensibly to close a continuing budget gap but also to allow the administration more “flexibility” in funding programs.

This afternoon, the Lewiston Morning Sentinel is reporting that the president of the university of Southern Maine, Theodora Kalikow, has reversed herself on those faculty cuts: Continue reading

How to Deny Scholars Access to Historical Archives in the Digital Age

Over the last six months, the Chinese government has been systematically reducing access to historical archives by scholars.

There has been much speculation about the purpose of this effort. Some have speculated that it has to do with China’s strained relations with several of its neighbors, but most notably Japan, over possession of several groups of small islands in the South China Sea. Others have suggested that it is in response to the heightened tensions in regions of China itself where ethnic minorities, most notably the Islamic Uyghurs in Xinjiang, have begun engaging in low-level insurgencies or intermittent terror campaigns. Still others have concluded that the effort is not directly linked to any single current circumstance but, instead, that it reflects the Chinese government’s determination to maintain some control over how its own history is told, at least to its own people.

For scholars outside of China or in disciplines that don’t require such access to such archives, the reasons why access to the historical archives is being reduced are, however, of less interest than how the Chinese government is effecting this policy. Continue reading

Koch-Funded Political Research: It Doesn’t Even Rise to the Level of Having Very Dubious Credibility

A number of Far-Right media outlets have been reporting the results of a recent academic study that has found that, to quote the Newsmax headline, “Republican ‘Red States’ Are the Most Free.”

This study has been produced by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The Mercatus Center was originally housed at Rutgers University under a different—and duller–name, the Center for the Study of Market Processes.

In the mid-1980s, the Koch Brothers donated $30 million to support the work of the center and to relocate it to the outskirts of the nation’s capital, at George Mason University. It receives no funding from the university; instead, it receives 98% of its support from Conservative foundations and individual donors.

Most broadly stated, the Mercatus Center’s mission is to “connect academic learning and real-world practice,” which, for most people would not much more enlightening than its Latinate name. More specifically, its purpose is to provide and promote free-market strategies for addressing public-policy issues.

It should surprise no one, therefore, that the research produced by this think-tank is basically Far-Right propaganda because it clearly sets out single-mindedly to find ways to confirm the core principles of that ideology. It does not seek to investigate the pressing questions of the day with anything approaching intellectual honesty and academic rigor, but it, instead, begs the questions by working from the ideological assertions that it purports then to support. Continue reading

Liberal Arts: The Perfect Education for the Business World

Keeping on my theme from the last couple of weeks, let’s look at some additional evidence of post-graduation success for students who attend a liberal arts college. Clyde Tuggle, Senior Vice President and Chief Public Affairs Officer at Coca-Cola, recently spoke at a gathering of Washington and Lee University students. Speaking about his current job, Tuggle told the students:

“To serve an organization like Coca-Cola, you need to speak a minimum of two foreign languages,” he said, “and have international experience. You need to see yourself as a citizen of the world — think like a Moroccan and see the world from that point of view — or you are behind the curve. You need the cultural skill to walk into any space and be comfortable, to blend into the environment.”

Tuggle, with undergraduate degrees in German and economics from Hamilton College, and a master’s of divinity from Yale, told the students, “I learned communications, research and critical thinking in liberal arts and religious studies…the perfect education for the business world.”

Andrew Benett, global CEO of Havas Worldwide, in his recent posting on fastcompany.com, proposes a counterargument to the notion that students must choose a career-directed educational path, for example in the STEM fields, as a “safe bet” for a future high-paying job. Continue reading

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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Misunderstanding Academic Freedom… Again and Again

Last month, Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen, who should know better, described academic freedom as permitting “the airing and defense of any and all views.” It is not so simple as that, of course. As the 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure puts it, there are (as most of us know) three parts to academic freedom. They should be repeated, and often, so that we can concentrate on what academic freedom really is, and not on what so many (and not just Deneen) imagine it to be:

  1. Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

  2. Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.

  3. College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

Though academic freedom has been conflated with freedom of speech over past decades (and, in many minds, has been extended to students), it was intended as a particular right of the faculty granted for quite specific purposes–and with clear limitations. Continue reading

Across the Great Divides? No More (Updated)

No matter the measure you use–education, income, heritage, race, family size, job type, language–Americans are moving to greater segregation than we have ever before experienced. This is a no-brainer; it has been the pattern for decades, and it becomes more dominant each year.

We must be satisfied with it, for we are doing nothing, absolutely nothing to change it. Certainly not in higher education.

My students, most of them first-generation college students, many of them immigrants, almost all of them from the less fortunate “side of the tracks” in one way or another (generally in many), are still sold the dream that they can make it to the other side of the divides, that their education is going to make a difference. They have been told that degrees are all it takes, told it throughout their education. I work with an Associates degree program, a transfer program meant to prepare students for baccalaureate majors. Few of these students were strong candidates for college in the first place (else they would be at one of the other CUNY campuses) though most of them (even those lacking basic skills) have the intellectual capacity for college work. As in A.A. programs nationwide, however, their success rate is abysmally low. We, like educators everywhere, are working hard to change that–but we still are, also, abetting a situation of growing separation.

What are these students going to do when they do get their Bachelor’s degrees and find that they still aren’t going to get the prize jobs? When are we going to admit to them that the dreams for their futures that we have helped foster can never be realized, that their chances of crossing to the other side are next to nil? When are we going to recognize that we are fooling ourselves–along with our students–when we claim that degrees are enough in themselves? Continue reading

A College President Who Is Running for the Senate in Nebraska Is an Over-Achiever Who Is Willing—Perhaps All Too Willing–to Be Perceived as an Idiot

Ben Sasse, the president of Midland College, is the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination to fill an open Senate seat in Nebraska. He has received the endorsements and financial support of just about every major national Republican group worth mentioning.

Nonetheless, opposition to his candidacy has become a unifying cause for Tea Party Republicans and Libertarian groups in the state, who believe that his views are not far enough to the Far Right. A few national figures, most notably Sarah Palin, have weighed in on the side of those opposing his candidacy.

To some casual observers, this backlash against his candidacy may seem somewhat surprising since his most memorable political ad seems pointedly designed to appeal to anti-government and, more specifically, anti-Washington sentiment. In that political ad, Sasse suggested that the nation’s capital has become so irredeemably corrupt that the only way to reduce the influence of entrenched special interests may be to move the capital to Nebraska. Continue reading

A More Aggressive Department of Labor

It is no secret that organized labor has been under attack, especially in the Midwest and especially since the 2010 elections when Far-Right governors and legislatures were elected in many of those states. Although the margins of victory in many of the individual contests were narrow, the cumulative effect was much more dramatic, and it was compounded by the redistricting that occurred early in the following year, which will protect the Far-Right legislative majorities essentially for this entire decade. The passage of “right to work” legislation in Indiana and Michigan has not reflected some great shift in public opinion in those states. Rather, it has resulted from Far-Right state governments that for the time being feel electorally immune to public backlash and from their exploitation of the extreme economic hardship caused by the Great Recession in those states.

The one electoral bright spot has been the impossibility of rigging statewide elections. Thus, a very adamantly pro-labor senator like Sherrod Brown in Ohio was able to be re-elected by a very wide margin, despite more than $30 million in outside money being poured into the state to support his opponent (that is, about three out of every four dollars spent on behalf of his opponent came from outside the state).

The Obama administration has been very slow to push back against many of the aggressive and radical strategies of those on the Far Right. But, in the President’s second term, no executive department has seem more revitalized and up to the task of pushing back than the Department of Labor has been. The reconstituted National Labor Relations Board has been reasserting workers’ right to unionize and , whether they are unionized or not, to be compensated fairly and to work in safe conditions. I think that this new spirit of activism is reflected in the Labor Secretary’s Senate testimony on his department’s budget requests.

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The Hopkins Call

The first call for a meeting to discuss the founding of the AAUP was organized by Arthur O. Lovejoy at Johns Hopkins University in the spring of 1913. It was signed by “most of the full professors” at the institution and sent to the faculties of nine other universities. While several historical documents were published in the March, 1916, Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, the Hopkins Call was not (although an excerpt was published in Science in 1913).

The following is a transcript that I made from one copy of the call. I found this copy in the microfilm version of the Roscoe Pound Papers. It was sent by Lovejoy to Pound, who was perhaps the most highly regarded legal scholar of his time, to ask him to represent Harvard at the organizational meeting.

The date listed in the letter below did not turn out not to be the date of the first organizational meeting. Instead, it was held to coincide with a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Baltimore in November 1913. The letter contains two blanks in which to insert who to reply to and by when. They were left blank in the version sent to Pound because that information was contained in a cover letter by Lovejoy who also included  similar letters from the faculties at Columbia and Cornell. The Call includes a list of names of those faculty at Hopkins who signed the letter (not included here). Continue reading