2014 Through the Academe Blog: April

“April is the… ” nope, not going there!

Michael DeCesare posted a letter from women faculty at Merrimack College to the president of the University of Southern Maine that includes this:

We write to request that you rescind the cuts you have made to the fulltime faculty in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Southern Maine, cuts which have occurred without a bona fide declaration of financial exigency, without agreed-upon criteria, and which have disproportionately affected women, some of whom are women of color.

Martin Kich reported on the situation at Portland State University:

The [AAUP] 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.

Similar situations are occurring all over the country; many of them have been discussed on the Academe blog.

As we close in on the end of the first century of the AAUP, there’s more and more interest in the founding. Joerg Tiede looked into the actual location of the Chemists’ Club of the time, where the first meeting was convened. He ends:

Given how very male-dominated the profession was in 1915, it would be interesting to determine how many female professors were in attendance. There were around 250 attendees total, and several invitees who didn’t attend joined those present as charter members. The Association published a list of charter members who were invited to attend the organizational meeting and who joined during the first few months of 1915.

Adding to this, Michael Ferguson presented a slideshow of Academe‘s history with this comment:

Online media have driven the most recent changes to the magazine. Academe is now available in a purely electronic format for readers who choose to opt out of the print subscription, and the online edition of the magazine regularly features articles that are not included in the print edition. The most substantial recent change, however, is the development of the blog you are reading now. Since its launch in 2011, Academe Bloghas grown rapidly, offering new ways of connecting the AAUP with its members and with members of the broader public.

The blog reproduced an open letter from Karen Dawisha after Cambridge University Press decided not to publish her book about corruption in Russia. Here’s an excerpt:

One is left to conclude that the main lesson to prospective authors is not to publish in the UK anything that might be seen as libelous. Leaving aside the amusing thought that using the standards of ‘comfort’ set out in the letter–deftly written, one assumes, by your legal department–even the King James’ Version should probably also have been published outside the UK, I do think the field of political science and Russian studies (but also Middle East studies as evidenced by CUP’s pulping of Alms for Jihad) needs to come to terms with the difficult situation that no empirical work on corruption (and probably many other topics) should be published with a British publisher.

In response to Marc Bousquet’s essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education of “The Moral Panic in Literary Studies,” I claimed:

Literature is entertainment. Many of us in literary studies have forgotten that, have dressed it up in all sorts of other vestments, abandoning the old clown suits and false armor. But that’s what literature is: fun and games. Certainly, as Horace and Sir Philip Sidney tell us, it can instruct as well as delight. In point of fact, it always does, whether it comes from the avant garde or from kitsch.  As entertainment, literature is as much a part of cultural studies as is television or the comic book, or even film. There is no need to separate it from the others—the same types of analysis, divided only by the specific tools of each medium, work for each, and each needs to be viewed within contexts of authors, composition, and audience/milieu. And, of course, of cultural history (which, of course, includes the history of literature).

Hank Reichman continued to report on the situation at the City College of San Francisco:

One reason I believe this conflict is so important is its potential implications for accreditation everywhere.  An ominous sign  — and a new wrinkle in the CCSF struggle — is a recent proposal by ACCJC [Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges] to add a new accreditation standard that would require that an institution’s “board, administration, faculty, staff and students, act responsibly and with integrity.” Such a requirement, of course, could well threaten the freedom of speech of all members of an institutional community, especially since it is totally unclear what “responsible” behavior would have to entail.

Kich responded to complaints that his postings here were too political:

My response to those complaints has been that I have persistently criticized the Department of Education and other Democratic agencies and initiatives that have been seemed to represent a desertion of progressive values. A few of my correspondents have then pointed out that in making that argument, I have essentially been doubling down on my partisan political stances by deriding Democrats for behaving like Republicans. I would prefer to use the terms “progressive” and “Far Right” because I think that they are sometimes more accurate than party identifications, and my motives are not to promote one major party over the other but to promote one value set over the other. But I do not think that it is simply a reflection of my partisan bias that Republicans have become so consistently “Far Right” in their ideology that I seem to have nothing positive to say about the policies that they are advancing.

John K. Wilson took me to task for what he saw as my too narrow view of academic freedom:

Over the past century, the AAUP has sought, with great success, to have the idea of academic freedom embraced and protected. But over that century, the idea of academic freedom has also evolved. Up until 1960, for example, the AAUP generally believed that extramural utterances were only protected if they met academic standards. That quickly changed, and the 1970 Interpretive Comments enshrined that doctrine, along with reversing other key parts of the 1940 Statement of Principles, such as its hatred of “controversial matter.”

Tiede, in his series on the founding of the AAUP, posted on the Ross case of 1901, one of the sparks that led to the founding of the organization:

The Ross case is perhaps the most well-known historical academic freedom case. Edward Ross (1866-1951), 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.

Brian C. Mitchell wrote on just how one can go about discovering a college’s values:

In the end, of course, there can be only one chief spokesperson to preside over development of the image and safeguard the appeal of the institution. It’s hard to praise or shoot the messenger if you can’t determine who has the responsibility to articulate the message.

It’s difficult to determine what a college values if the story is unclear. It’s even more deadly if the message is mixed, depending upon which fiefdom and how many of them are presenting the case.

There was much more going on in April; this is just a brief idea of all the blog covered!

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