2014 Through the Academe Blog: September

John K. Wilson began the month with an update on the Salaita situation:

Considering that all of the trustees signed a letter embracing Salaita’s firing, it would be shocking if even a single trustee voted for Salaita. The Sept. 11 Board of Trustees meeting will obviously be the center of considerable attention, but it ultimately will not change the decision.

Hank Reichman commented upon a disturbing trend in ownership of academic work:

NCTQ President Kate Walsh disagreed, of course. “It’s an argument that I think is a strange one for universities to argue,” Walsh said. “I would imagine that universities don’t want it on record that the syllabi that professors prepare as employees of the university don’t really belong to [the university]. I don’t understand why universities would want to argue that case.”

So there we have it.  For educational “reformers” like Walsh, professors are simply employees whose work belongs to their employer.  Sadly, that’s increasingly the attitude of too many university administrators as well.  It’s encouraging that at least in Missouri the administration has resisted the temptation to claim what is not rightfully theirs.

Joerg Tiede continued his series of posts on the founding of the AAUP:

the various external forces that pushed for the standardization of American higher education in the early 20th century did not give a role to the faculty, and thus the AAUP was also founded to be the voice of the profession and “to make collective action possible,” as the organizing call had stated. The founders recognized academic freedom as a central element of the professional autonomy of faculty members, but they did not found the association with the exclusive or even primary goal of addressing it.

Chris Cruz-Boone wrote about the 11th annual COCAL conference:

Discussions about theory and activism were alive in every lecture hall at COCAL XI. One common conversation in sessions was the theoretical implications of corporatizing higher education. Similarly, there were stories of adjuncts empowered to unionize, bargain for equity, and mobilize on adjunct issues. During one lunch conversation a fellow adjunct memorably commented that, “I used to feel secure in my job and work closely with management.  When they got rid of my appointment I became more involved with the union and was able to weaponize my institutional knowledge.”  The implication that adjuncts who are reduced are no longer running scared but using what they know to strategically demand our rightful place of permanence in higher education.

I considered Pearson meddling in academic affairs in Texas:

It is up to us to make Pearson understand that even the slightest hint of interference in professional responsibilities of hiring, retention, tenure, and promotion is unacceptable. The corporation–like all corporations and all outside entities–needs to make sure that its impact on the educational institutions it supports financially never encroaches in this area. We have little power over the Koch brothers when they try to do this, unfortunately, but we do have power over Pearson. If enough of us mention that we are considering switching from Pearson products, and will do so if there is even the slightest hint of interference in our professional decision-making, Pearson will listen. Individually, none of us counts for much but, added together, we can have an impact

Marjorie Heins untangled the Salaita case:

The facts suggest that threats from donors were at the very least a factor in Wise’s decision. Attempts to censor speech through conditions on funding, whether from private donors or state legislatures (or Congress) pose a very serious problem not only for higher education but, as we saw with the National Endowment for the Arts 25 years ago, for artistic and intellectual freedom generally. In the NEA context, the Supreme Court ultimately finessed the problem by ruling that Congress’ viewpoint-based restrictions on arts funding were not really restrictions at all – just suggestions.

Jonathan Rees reported on a Colorado AAUP conference, concluding that:

Few of us can be sure whether or not our campus is really the canary in the higher education coal mine. However, better mine safety everywhere eventually benefits everyone with a pick and shovel. The more we professors talk to each other, both on social media and off, the better off we’ll all be when bad ideas surface that may someday affect us all.

As we started to see “incivility” used as a wedge toward limiting academic freedom and freedom of speech, Reichman wondered if it were not being used as the specter of communism once was:

A pattern seems to be emerging, and it is not a salutary one.  Just as in the 1950s being labeled a Communist could supposedly justify violations of both academic freedom and the First Amendment, so too today it appears that there are some — and, alas, these include far too many prominent academic “leaders” — who would have us deny these same freedoms to those they label as violators of “civility.”  This is no less dangerous than the justifications of the anti-Communists.  When does a debate lose civility?  Just which expressions will be permissible?

Peter Kirstein wrote about a meeting to be held on the campus of AAUP-censured Northeastern Illinois University:

The Illinois Conference seeks to maintain a public commitment to A.A.U.P. principles that were egregiously violated at the censured institution. We will monitor the situation beyond the national censure list and the annual letter that is sent to a censured administration seeking reform and modification of misbegotten policies. While those are important, Illinois A.A.U.P. is affirming that the conference has an ongoing commitment to the faculty and the A.A.U.P. chapter on that campus. The fall meeting at Northeastern Illinois University hopefully will demonstrate to President Sharon Hahs that the evisceration of academic freedom, shared governance and academic due process remain open wounds and essential issues on the campus.

Ulf Kirchdorfer made the point that online education is increasing class divides:

Using the Internet to “attend” many today’s online colleges is neither a smart choice nor is it the first choice for many middle class or upper-class students.  They will choose to have a residential campus experience.  Meanwhile, persons of lower socio-economic status are given to believe that they can check in on their smartphones and do some homework while they wait in line to purchase groceries for the family, only to be interrupted by the need to flash to another screen to redeem a virtual coupon.

Wilson responded to University of Illinois trustee Christopher Kennedy’s comments on the board’s upholding of the Salaita decision:

the trustees never looked for a moment at Salaita’s teaching record or his scholarship. And it appears that the sole reason for Salaita’s firing was the belief that his tweets were “hate speech” and anti-Semitic. Of course, there was never the slightest suggestion that anyone should ask Salaita for any explanation or contact the academics involved in his hiring.

Lisa Minnick wrote about campus police, faculty and negotiations:

I want to stress that the behavior of most of the police officers was professional and respectful as they carried out the task of removing us from this building on our university campus at what was already pretty much the end of our demonstration.

Unfortunately, several other officers behaved aggressively and disrespectfully, storming into the administrative suite and ordering us to leave immediately. They appeared angry and emotionally charged from the moment they arrived on the scene, treating us with considerable hostility and threatening us with arrest if we did not get out. With raised voices, they ordered us to leave immediately and yelled at us that we were disrupting the business of the university. When a faculty member asked one of them what law we were breaking, he was informed that he would be taken to jail if he didn’t get out immediately.

A lot more went on during the month on the blog. Remember, this is just a sampling!

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