Showing posts with label Academic Freedom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Academic Freedom. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

AAUP Report of a Special Committee: Political Interference and Academic Freedom in Florida’s Public Higher Education System

What we are witnessing in Florida is an intellectual reign of terror. There is a tremendous sense of dread right now, not just among faculty; it’s tangible among students and staff as well. People are intellectually and physically scared. We are being named an enemy of the State. The events at Jacksonville too, feel real, and people feel it could happen to them. 

—LeRoy Pernell, professor of law, Florida A&M (interview with the special committee)

Report of a Special Committee: Political Interference and Academic Freedom in Florida’s Public Higher Education System



Tuesday, December 12, 2023

UI shared governance, and policies and procedures that protect it, are essential to academic freedom

 Academic freedom is the pillar of a free society. When it is compromised, public trust in scientific knowledge is eroded; biased teaching invades classrooms; and knowledge is politicized. The first line of protection for academic freedom is policy provisions against undue interference in the work of those involved in research and teaching. For these reasons, the university community at large must actively engage in the process of developing and revising policy documents to promote the principles of shared governance.

The University of Iowa establishes rules in its Policy Manual (PM). The UI requires each college to write their own manuals of policy and procedures, but the college’s manuals may not contradict the PM. Similarly, each college requires units within it to produce their own policy documents... DI editorial.

The original (longer) version of "Shared governance—and the policy and procedure that protects it—are essential to academic freedom


As Harvard’s Governing Boards Meet, More than 700 Faculty Urge Against Gay’s Removal, Citing University Independence

The letter dated, December 10, 2023 and addressed to the President and Fellows of Harvard College said:

We, the undersigned faculty, urge you in the strongest possible terms to defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom, including calls for the removal of President Claudine Gay. The critical work of defending a culture of free inquiry in our diverse community cannot proceed if we let its shape be dictated by outside forces.

As of December 10, 2023, at 4:46 p.m., the letter was signed by 726 Harvard faculty members.

Monday, December 11, 2023

As Harvard President Faces Pressure to Resign, Some Faculty Show Support

As Harvard President Faces Pressure to Resign, Some Faculty Show Support

Sunday, July 30, 2023

‘I’m not wanted’: Florida universities hit by brain drain as academics flee

Monday, June 21, 2021

UNC Journalism School Tried To Give Nikole Hannah-Jones Tenure. A Top Donor Objected

 On paper, The New York Times's Nikole Hannah-Jones is a dream hire for the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She won a MacArthur "genius grant" for her reporting on the persistence of segregation in American life. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay accompanying "The 1619 Project," a New York Times Magazine initiative she conceived on the legacy of slavery in the U.S. And Hannah-Jones earned a master's degree from the school itself, in 2003.

Yet the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees declined to act upon her proposed appointment. That tenure proposal ran aground on race, politics, and, perhaps surprisingly, on a clash between diverging views of journalism.

The opposing view has been embodied by Walter Hussman, the 1968 UNC journalism graduate whose name has graced the school since he made a $25 million pledge. Longtime publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Hussman has shared his opposition to Hannah-Jones' appointment with the journalism school dean, several university administrators, and, reportedly, two members of the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Cowardice, Elitism, Racism And Academia

 While launching his political 2020 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, clarified beyond doubt what he means by his slogan, “Make America Great Again.” He called on four congresswomen to go back to their countries of origin. The four congresswomen are, Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Rashida Tlaib (MI), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY). Omar is a naturalized Muslim US citizen who was admitted to this country as a refugee from Somalia. Pressley is a Black US-born citizen whose ancestors were enslaved and brought to this country against their will. Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez are US-born citizens descendants of non-white migrants. The implication is clear: in the mind of Trump and some of his supporters, being a woman of color who migrated recently, whose parents migrated recently, or whose ancestors were slaves would preclude her from being an equal citizen to her white counterpart. Making America great again, therefore, is about taking America back to before the 1868 14th Amendment (citizenship and slavery), before the 1870 15th Amendment (citizenship and race), and before the 1920 19th Amendment (citizenship and sex). This white nationalism impulse is now supported by a growing body of evidence in the form of statements and policies.

The attack on these women was ostensibly triggered by their critical views of some of the US domestic and foreign policies. Trump equated their criticism and political views to being unpatriotic and disloyal. This comes from a man whose slogan implies that America (especially under Obama) was not great, and that he is the person capable of making America great again. When white men, like Trump, criticize the conditions of the country, it is patriotism; but when non-white American citizens do the same, it is treason. This is not a political campaigning rhetoric; it is a lethal narrative that will be co-opted by those who wish to make American a homeland exclusive of non-white people and who are willing to kill to achieve that goal. This toxic, lethal discourse amplified by the chief executive officer will endure beyond political cycles, and should Trump lose his bid for another term, his supporters will likely resort to more violence.

When the political leader of the nation’s highest office makes a statement telling a group of citizens to go back to their countries of origin, reasonable, fair-minded persons would expect leaders at places of work to standup and remind everyone that we live in a country of laws where discrimination, threats, and retaliation are illegal. Regardless of what a president would say or do, leaders should reaffirm that respect for the law and the constitution that binds us together must supersede personal politics—including the president’s. An unequivocal stance from leaders of the institutions that is responsible for educating future generations is fundamental given the institutions’ core mission. Silence emboldens those who act above the law. But silence is what is happening.

Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic reported that leaders of universities and companies are all silent and none of them are willing to go on the record saying anything about such racism. Off the record, however, they admit that if the statements were made by someone in their institutions, the person making them “would face serious consequences… But virtually none of those leaders — from schools and universities to big global companies to nonprofits and local government — have been willing to publicly express that consensus as President Donald Trump has deployed that incendiary and openly racist language himself.”

Leaders in my institution, the University of Iowa, too, were silent: No leader from the department, college, or central administration came out publicly to reassure students and employees who are of the same background as these women or who have family members who fit the same profile as these women that, as leaders, they condemn racism and that they stand up for constitutional rights of all citizens, as equal under the law. That silence, for a person like me who feels that Trump’s tweets are directed at my family members who share the same background as the four congresswomen–is stunning.

As I live this experience, I could not help but think of the words of the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he invited to give a speech at the Morningside campus in 2006. Introducing his guest, Mr. Bollinger said:

We at this university have not been shy to protest the challenge–and challenge the failures of our own government to live by our values, and we won’t be shy about criticizing yours. Let’s then be clear at the beginning. Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

While there are reasons to be critical of Mr. Ahmadinejad, calling someone now term-limited into retirement a dictator is more problematic for an institution that received money from the Saudi government whose crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has no concepts or institutions of election or term limited positions. As absolute ruler who controls all the levers of power, bin Salman sent his agents to literally dismember a US resident Saudi dissident with medical saws in a diplomatic building in Turkey. Ignorance aside, consistency and credibility are the real issues leaders of US academic institutions must be mindful of.

It has been a week since Trump published the most recent racist tweets. Yet, Columbia University has not issued a public statement about this or other discriminatory statements and policies of “our own government.” I now realize that persons from “shithole” countries, to borrow the words of the head of “our own government,” are expected to criticize their governments and white men who are not even citizens of such countries do, too. But the reverse is not true. We, non-white citizens that is, cannot criticize “our own government” and if we do, we will be asked by the white president to go back to our countries of origin and neither the president of Columbia University nor any other university president will “challenge the failures of our own government.” It is easy for white people to challenge a brown-skinned president of a distant Muslim country and expect brown-skinned persons to join in. In fact, we are not expected to just join in, we are expected to only limit our challenge to governments in our countries of origin. The rudeness to an invited guest who also happened to be the head of a state was applauded, but the discrimination against US citizens is met with absolute silence–racism is deeper than a tweet. While Trump’s racism is explicit, the silence of leaders and professors of academic institutions is implicit. And while administrators silence can be explained, though not justified, by their worry about losing government funding or about challenging their hiring/firing superiors (public university presidents are usually hired by board members appointed by political leaders), the silence of senior professors is even more troubling.

In Academia, the most compelling justification for tenure is the need to protect experts and scholars against intimidation, threats, and retaliation so that they are able to express themselves freely on critical matters of public interest and speak fact-based truth to power. Unfortunately, it would seem that courage, in academia, is limited to pointing out the wrongs done by dead kings and dictators, foreign authoritarians, and/or democratically elected leaders of countries “our own government” does not like—not for any other principle- or fact-driven reasons. Many of us make use of the archived writings of the few courageous dissenters (who put their freedom and sometime their lives at risk and spoke truth to power) to reconstruct reality but avoid, at all cost, to speak against cruelty in the moment and challenge failure to uphold the law the instant it happens—not after the deed is part of the archived history. How useful is tenure if all it affords us is delayed outrage against dead racists, fascists, authoritarians, and violators of human rights.

Simply, it is cowardice that prevent academicians from standing up for social justice, rule of law, and human rights. Systemically, cowardice is a result of a tenure process that was turned into a domestication, pacification, and elitism-inducting scheme. In many institutions, tenure-review processes lack transparency, due process, and fairness empowering senior faculty members to indulge their personal biases and political views. Such corrupt process, overtime, produced distorted understanding of collegiality and became an obstruction to innovation, debility to imagination, and decrepitude to originality. A typical academician must go through an average of six years of navigating the sensitivities and temperaments of mentors as a graduate student, about seven years of fittingness with senior colleagues as a junior faculty member, and an average of eight years of expected reverence to elitist class of full professors as an associate. After about twenty years of leading a life shaped by the views and judgements of one’s mentors and senior colleagues, one is likely to lose perspective of who they were and what they stood for. These are some of the reasons that are making faculty unionization more appealing to some faculty members than the elitist tenure system. The silence of senior professors in the face of such openly racist attacks on historically marginalized social groups is the strongest argument against the value of tenure system as is. The good news is that there are more options than tenure/non-tenure binary options. For instance, faculty members could stop pursuing further promotion beyond the associate rank with tenure and focus on the public good they could do rather than on subjugating themselves to further domestication for the sake of a useless rank that has to do with prestige and elitism and less with achievements and expertise. If we have to choose between public good and elitism, public good should prevail.

For administrators, however, presidents of US universities like Mr. Bollinger and the president of my own university are adding to their credibility deficit and betraying the core missions and values of the institutions they lead. Knowledge is consequential and leadership is responsibility therefore silence is not an option. To regain the trust of the people they lead and communities they serve and for their words to have meaning, they need to stand up for the laws of this country and say to a president, who has built a self-incriminating body of evidence, and tell him, “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel racist.”

Prof. SOUAIAIA is a member of the faculty at the University of Iowa with joint appointment in International Studies, Religious Studies, History, and College of Law. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he might be affiliated.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Three-Legged Stool: Academic Freedom, Shared Governance, and Tenure

This chapter outlines the relationship between academic freedom and shared governance. It situates academic freedom as one leg of a three-legged stool, with the other being shared governance and tenure. It shows how the relationship between the three components that sustain the faculty's role is under threat from numerous forces: (1) the managerial model that now dominates the corporate university; (2) the massive reliance on contingent faculty which leads to no structural role in shared governance; (3) the loss of faculty vigilance over and understanding of the relationship between shared governance and academic freedom; (4) the renewed culture wars waged by the Right to deprive faculty of both academic freedom and the key elements of shared governance; (5) the rampant laissez-faire commercialism; and (6) financial crises which leads to furloughs, salary cuts, or program eliminations.

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