Free Public Higher Education, Quality Instruction, and Job Security for All Faculty Members

By Robert Samuels

This is the third in a series of Academe Blog guest posts arranged by the AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession in celebration of Campus Equity Week. For information on and resources for CEW, see the national website at

samuels1In my book, Why Public Higher Education Should be Free, I argue that the problems facing higher education cannot be resolved in a piecemeal or institution-by-institution process. We need a comprehensive plan to deal with tuition increases, student debt, decreased degree attainment, questionable educational practices, and the casualization of the academic labor force. Fortunately, we can resolve all these issues if we start with the notion that all public higher education should be free. One reason why we need to begin with this strong claim is that, if education is seen as a private good accessed by private individuals for private means, there will be no way to make higher education a public good. Continue reading

A Crisis of Censorship: A Response to the National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has issued a new report about California universities based upon false evidence, distorted anecdotes, random online postings, and a series of terrible arguments that are fundamentally contrary to academic freedom and the idea of the university as a place for the free debate of ideas.

What the NAS calls for is a kind of a new McCarthyism, where Regents and administrators ban the use of funds for events deemed “political,” force the hiring of unqualified conservative professors, and silence professors as “political” if they criticize the government in class or stray from the preferred conservative ideology of the NAS.

“A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California” is a new report issued from the California Association of Scholars and the National Association of Scholars’ Center for the Study of the Curriculum.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum apparently read the report, too, and embraced its loony vision of a vast left-wing conspiracy on campus to destroy education:

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AAUP Statement in Support of Free Expression in the University of California

On November 20, the national Council of the AAUP passed the following resolution:

Statement in Support of Free Expression in the University of California

On November 9, police officers dispatched by the administration of the University of California, Berkeley violently assaulted students and faculty who were peacefully protesting. The assaults are clearly documented in video recordings circulating widely on the Internet. Some students and a faculty member were arrested and several faculty members were injured. One faculty member was thrown to the ground by her hair, even as, in the great American tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, she was extending her hands and crying “arrest me.” It is sadly ironic that this assault on free expression took place on the Mario Savio Steps, dedicated by the University to the memory of the leader of the Free Speech Movement, which in 1964 established the fundamental principle that University students have the right to speak freely and demonstrate at the University so long as their actions are not violent and do not inordinately disrupt the University’s functions.

This assault has prompted broad outrage throughout the University of California’s ten campuses. On November 16, as many as 10,000 students, faculty, staff and members of the public gathered in Sproul Plaza as part of a University-wide strike. At the University of California, Davis on November 18 another peaceful demonstration of students and faculty was assaulted with pepper gas. Several students were hospitalized and others injured.

The AAUP joins our colleagues in California, including members of those University of California Faculty Associations affiliated with AAUP, in condemning these attacks and expresses its solidarity with those who have been unjustly attacked and arrested. All universities must make space for political dissent. Students and faculty must be free to decide on the form of their dissent and, if they so decide, to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience without fear of bodily harm arising from a violent administration response. We call upon the Board of Regents of the University of California and the University administrations to refrain immediately from further use of police against nonviolent protesters and, instead, to defend the rights of students, faculty, and staff to peacefully demonstrate.

Berkeley Faculty Sign Letter Against Police Violence

Over 600 University of California at Berkeley faculty have signed this letter in protest of the police violence against the Occupy Cal demonstration:

November 11, 2011

Open Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley administration, and the UC Regents:

We, the undersigned faculty, lecturers, and graduate student assistants—all of whom teach at Berkeley and are invested in the educational mission of this university—are outraged by the unnecessary and excessive use of violence by the police and sheriff’s deputies against peaceful protesters at UC Berkeley beginning on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.

We will not tolerate this assault on the historic legacy of free speech on this campus.

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