Jonathan Marks at Minding the Campus has denounced the AAUP, claiming that it “takes a sharp left turn.” Marks claims that the AAUP’s Centennial Declaration is “the most nakedly partisan document to emerge from the AAUP in recent memory.”
Marks writes, “According to the Declaration, higher education faces one and only one enemy, corporations or business interests,’ which, the document implies, seek to ‘dictate teaching or research agendas.’
The Declaration says nothing like this, It never identifies corporations as an enemy of academia, let alone as the sole enemy. It simply states, “corporations or business interests should not dictate teaching or research agendas,” which seems like a reasonable and nonpartisan ideal.
Ironically enough, Marks asserts that “No one who has been paying attention to higher education over the past decade will think that concerns about the ‘corporatization’ of higher education are the exclusive province of the left.” If that’s true, then why does Marks condemn the AAUP’s modestly-worded concerns about corporatization as evidence of a left-wing conspiracy? Why would expressing concerns about corporate influence “forfeit whatever reputation for nonpartisanship the AAUP may once have had”?
Marks is also upset that the AAUP has issued a call for proposals to present at the AAUP’s 2016 conference, encouraging “reflection on racial, social, and labor justice in higher education.” But what’s wrong with that? Nothing prevents anyone from making proposals about other topics. And nothing in the call for proposals suggests that conservative viewpoints about racial, social, and labor justice will be excluded. If a conservative wants to argue that affirmative action is racial injustice, that social justice is a bad priority for colleges, or that unions harm the interests of faculty and students, I am confident that the AAUP is willing to let their arguments be heard. I regularly invite conservative organizations to speak at the AAUP conference to do exactly that. Unless Marks thinks that conservatives and Republicans are inherently unjust, I see nothing partisan in free and open discussions of racial, social, and labor justice.
Instead, Marks seems to think that some topics simply shouldn’t be heard because he deems them too liberal, and then denounces the AAUP as “left-wing” for believing in the free exchange of ideas. It’s interesting that a comment on Marks’ article declares, “the source of our present political fractiousness is university faculty. Such people should be allowed nowhere near young impressionable minds.”