Editor's Introduction - Volume 5

By Ashley Dawson

The call for papers for this year’s issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom was centered on the issue of electronic communications and academic freedom. Precipitated by the 2013 publication of the AAUP report Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications, this CFP hoped to elicit exploration of the shifting landscape for academic freedom resulting from the proliferation of social media. Researchers, I felt, are increasingly using networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in ways that blur the lines separating areas of research expertise and broader public engagement. Among the questions proposed for investigation were the following:

  • How has the growth of electronic communications facilitated and impinged on academic freedom?
  • To what extent are social media such as Twitter and Facebook changing forms of scholarly communication and knowledge dissemination, and what is the upshot for issues of academic freedom?
  • What are the implications for academic freedom of the proliferation of open access publications? What changes are taking place as commercial entities seek to commodify knowledge through various electronic gatekeeping mechanisms?
  • How are the increasingly elastic and intangible walls of the electronic classroom challenging existing definitions of academic freedom, shared governance, and intellectual property?
  • In what ways can we promote faculty participation in the shared governance of various forms of electronic communications?

This call for papers now seems quite prescient. On August 1, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise sent an email to Steven Salaita announcing that she was effectively annulling the professorial appointment at Illinois that he had received in 2013. Salaita had been offered a tenured position in the American Indian Studies Program, and had signed an acceptance letter last October. In her email, Wise wrote, “We believe that an affirmative Board vote approving your appointment is unlikely. We therefore will not be in a position to appoint you to the faculty.” Subsequent reports in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education suggested that the revocation was in response to Salaita’s critical postings on Twitter and Facebook concerning the Israeli military’s attacks on Gaza this summer.

Shortly after Wise’s decision was announced, former AAUP president Cary Nelson issued statements defending Salaita’s firing. Salaita’s tweets, Nelson argued, amounted to hate speech and incitements to violence. Moreover, Nelson suggested that Salaita’s uncivil public discourse on Twitter would make Jewish students at Illinois feel uncomfortable in Salaita’s classes. Clinching his argument, Nelson wrote that Salaita’s firing was not an infringement of academic freedom; since the university would only officially hire Salaita after a positive vote by the board of trustees, Nelson argued, he was not entitled to protection from infringement of his right to academic freedom at the university. As Nelson put it, “It’s not a violation of academic freedom to decide you don’t approve of someone’s publications or their public use of social media. It’s not a violation of academic freedom to decide not to hire someone with a deplorable role as a public intellectual.”

How representative was Nelson’s opinion of sentiments within the AAUP? Anita Levy, associate secretary in the AAUP’s department of academic freedom, tenure, and governance, was reported shortly after the publication of Nelson’s defense of Wise as saying that Mr. Nelson “does not speak for the association.” Subsequently, the AAUP issued an official statement on the Salaita case condemning the apparent violation of the academic freedom of both Salaita and the Illinois faculty members who recommended hiring him. Referencing the AAUP policy on Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications, the statement insisted that “faculty comments made on social media, including Twitter, are largely extramural statements of personal views that should be protected by academic freedom.” In addition, the statement, signed by AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum and first vice president Henry Reichman, reminded readers that, “the AAUP has long objected to using criteria of civility and collegiality in faculty evaluation because we view this as a threat to academic freedom.”

As of this time of writing, the Salaita case is still very much open. A petition seeking his reinstatement has gathered over 15,000 signatures, and more than 2,700 scholars from various disciplines have signed a pledge not to attend UIUC events or conferences until the university reverses its decision. These numbers grow every day as more scholars come to understand how grave this case is. As faculty and students return to campus, Salaita’s firing will no doubt be a touchstone for campus organizing and contention, both at UIUC and elsewhere. One wonders whether the university presidents who rushed to announce their dedication to academic freedom last winter will raise their voices in this case. In addition, the fact that the tweets cited to fire Salaita were critical of Israeli policy, including the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in Operation Protective Edge, is sure to keep aflame some of the controversies generated by the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions campaign, which we covered in last year’s issue of The Journal of Academic Freedom. The denouement of the Salaita case undoubtedly will have very significant implications for academic freedom.

Unfortunately this issue of The Journal of Academic Freedom goes to press too soon to include detailed, peer-reviewed considerations of the many issues opened up by the Salaita case. The issue nonetheless features a number of essays that respond to the initial CFP on electronic communication and academic freedom, thereby shedding light in an indirect manner on the questions raised by this affair. Before introducing these pieces, as well as the other essays featured in this issue, however, I would like to consider some of the broader questions opened up by this controversy. For Steven Salaita’s firing, it seems to me, highlights links between issues of academic freedom and fundamental questions of university governance with which the AAUP has historically been concerned. Indeed, the Salaita affair underlines the fact that the defense of academic freedom is entirely too limited a goal for the AAUP or any other organization that claims to represent the professoriate in its entirety. Campaigns to protect academic freedom, it is increasingly clear, cannot be carried out successfully in isolation from a far more basic struggle, one that animated the founding of the AAUP: the campaign to democratize the university.

University of Illinois Chancellor Wise, we should recall, decided to rescind Steven Salaita’s appointment without consulting any official organ of faculty representation. Her unilateral decision reflects the increasingly autocratic behavior of university administrators across the country, as well as their growing vulnerability to political pressures from outside the university. In a recent book, Cary Nelson himself documents the growing disdain with which university presidents, trustees, and other administrators view traditions of shared governance. Nelson cites former University of Michigan president James Duderstadt’s bald declaration that faculty have to be taken out of the loop of university decision making.1 Ironically, Nelson seems not to have considered the extent to which Wise’s unilateral revocation of Salaita’s job offer dramatically undermines traditions of shared governance. If, as Nelson has it in the title of his essay, shared governance is one leg of the “three-legged stool” of U.S. higher education—the other two legs being academic freedom and tenure—that stool is looking increasingly rickety.2 As Nelson himself puts it, “academic freedom is an empty concept, or an effectively diminished one, if the faculty does not control its enforcement through shared governance.”3

To what extent, we might wonder, does the metaphor of the three-legged stool obscure the true nature of the US academy? Does this metaphor provide an adequate lens through which to analyze the increasing power of the administrative branch of the university? A recent report by the Delta Cost Project, for example, revealed that administrative hiring drove a 28 percent boom in the higher education workforce over the last decade, while the numbers of full-time faculty per administrator declined by 40 percent. Given this shift in staffing, we may well wonder whether Nelson’s metaphor helps naturalize the distribution of power in post-1945 higher education in the United States. Over the last several decades there have been many laments about the creeping corporatization of the university. The increasing percentage of precarious teachers who staff classrooms is a key node of these trends, since temporary labor is a product of the drive to increase university profit margins that not incidentally leads to insecurity of tenure for the entire professoriate.

In tandem with this shift towards what Jennifer Washburn calls “University, Inc.,” US universities have after September 11, 2001, been subjected to increasing political pressure intended to squelch critique of the hyper-nationalist, belligerent imperialism of the War on Terror.4 In Dangerous Professors, Malini Johar Schueller and I argue that these two trends—academic capitalism and imperialism—need to be seen as operating in tandem to silence dissenting voices, to dismantle meaningful forms of shared governance on campus, and to destroy the university’s capacity to promote the kinds of critical dialogue essential to a vibrant democracy.5 As Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira argue in a recent essay collection, attacks on critical voices within the academy are part of a project to reestablish US higher education as a key site for the articulation of the racism, militarism, and nationalism that undergird US imperialism.6 The US academy, they contend, is a thoroughly “imperial university.”

How, then, might we begin to decolonize US higher education and dismantle the neoliberal structures that support it? Chatterjee and Maira’s argument that academic freedom “has been institutionalized as a limited and problematic horizon for progressive academic mobilization” is an important one.7 I concur with their call to “foster insurgent spaces within the academy” that can work in alliance with “organic intellectuals or movements beyond the university.”8 But I worry about how long such “insurgent spaces” can survive in isolation in the academy. While we must recognize the imperial university for what it is, we should not, I think, give up on the project of radical institutional transformation. We must surely rally to defend academic freedom in the Salaita case, and also build links with extramural antiracist, anti-imperial movements, but it would be a mistake to ignore the broader issues of institutional power within the academy discussed here.

A project of radical institutional transformation can draw strength from the AAUP’s own history. We should recall that at its inception the AAUP was not primarily focused on maintaining Nelson’s “three-legged stool.” To the contrary, the organization’s founders had far more progressive goals. As Hans-Joerg Tiede argues in his essay “To Make Collective Action Possible,” published in this volume of the Journal of Academic Freedom, AAUP founders such as Columbia University psychology professor James McKeen Cattell were animated by visions of sweeping democratic transformation within the university and in society at large. Indeed, Cattell militated for the elimination of the office of the university president in its dominant form: “The trouble in the case of the university president is that he is not a leader, but a boss. He is selected by and is responsible to a body practically outside the university, which in the private corporations is responsible to nobody.” Even apparently more conservative figures such as Arthur Lovejoy and E.R.A. Seligman embraced Progressive-era goals of democratizing American society. For reform-minded scholars such as Seligman, the US university was at a stage that corresponded to an “aristocratic republic” ruled by wealthy powerbrokers with scant connection to the real constituency of the academy: students and professors. For his part, Lovejoy argued that “No arrangement in which the university teaching profession has even a limited jurisdiction over university policies only upon sufferance . . . is likely to be regarded as permanently endurable by the university teachers of America when as a class they attain a fully developed professional self consciousness.” It was only as Progressive Era energies waned, Tiede reminds us, that the newly established AAUP consolidated itself primarily around the defense of academic freedom and tenure.

Yet, as Cary Nelson insists, “no university is an island.” Perhaps we cannot hope to catalyze progressive institutional changes in US higher education without broader social transformation, without an ebbing of the tide of racism, militarism, and nationalism that drives US imperialism today. But it is equally true that we cannot hope to defend spaces of anti-imperial critique in the academy without a vision and set of concrete goals for the democratization of US higher education. The Salaita case demonstrates that the main constituents of the university, students and teachers, have lost control of the key institutions of institutional power—the office of the president and the board of trustees. Across the country, these pinnacles of power in the university are occupied by individuals who are almost always politically appointed, the product of a revolving door that links elite corporate boardrooms and politicians whose elections have been bankrolled by those same corporations (or by astroturf populist organizations bankrolled by the 1 percent). Faced with this pervasive corruption of democracy inside and outside the university, we might benefit from a reanimation of the AAUP founders’ radical ideals. Shared governance and academic freedom should be our minimal demands. It is surely time to advance a more ambitious set of goals for the decolonization and democratization of US higher education.

We kick off this issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom with Hans-Joerg Tiede’s essay “To Make Collective Action Possible: The Founding of the AAUP.” Tiede’s article reminds us that the AAUP was not founded to protect academic freedom alone. Discussing the conflicts of the late nineteenth century between university governing boards–predominantly populated by businessmen, corporate lawyers, and faculty members–Tiede reminds us that founding members of the AAUP did not shy away from battles against the autocratic institutional structure of universities at the time. Like other Progressive Era activists, these intellectuals sought to democratize key social institutions. Defending the academic freedom of professors such as Stanford’s Edward Ross, who was fired in 1901 on the orders of Jane Stanford herself, was only one of their goals. As Tiede documents, however, the AAUP never articulated proposals as radical as those of individual members such as James McKeen Cattell, whose University Control called for the election of university governing boards and the abolition of the office of university president. As Progressive Era energies waned, Tiede tells us, the AAUP set aside such radical goals to focus on the defense of academic freedom. As I argue above, Tiede’s essay is an extremely timely reminder of the democratizing ideals that animated many of the AAUP’s founders at the time of the organization’s inception.

Kenneth Garcia’s essay “Religion, Sectarianism, and the Pursuit of Truth: Reexamining Academic Freedom in the Twenty-First Century” also looks back to the founding ideals of the AAUP nearly a century ago. For Garcia, the AAUP’s famous statement of principles in 1915 was characterized by a determination to pursue truth in its broadest possible sense. Since then, Garcia argues, the right to seek out knowledge has become increasingly constrained within the narrow confines of specialized disciplinary knowledge. Writing from a denominational institution, Garcia argues that this increasing specialization has come at a cost that can include the quest for spiritual truth. While principles of academic freedom in religious institutions such as his own must incorporate current secular standards, Garcia writes, they should also recognize the mind’s desire for the infinite. Garcia argues that the AAUP should reexamine documents such as the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and perhaps consider reanimating elements of the original 1915 Declaration of Principles. Whether or not one agrees with Garcia’s arguments concerning the place of the spiritual, his call to reexamine the AAUP’s founding documents is certainly a salutary one.

Like Tiede and Garcia’s essays, the next two articles also adopt a historical lens, but focus on more recent institutional transformations in US higher education. Richard Teichgraeber’s “Tenure Matters: An Historian’s Perspective” takes up the gauntlet thrown down by the 2006 report of the Modern Language Association Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion: how to justify the institution of tenure to a nonacademic audience. Teichgraeber approaches this challenge through the eyes of a historian, leading him to conclude that tenure cannot consistently be seen as a single concept or policy, uniformly applied across institutions and time. Instead, he argues that tenure should be regarded as a complex set of practices that have evolved very significantly during the last half century. While tenure certainly is essential to the protection of professors’ rights to explore controversial ideas unhindered, Teichgraeber argues that, at its core, tenure is about faculty self-regulation rather than free speech. In order to support this contention, Teichgraeber engages in an illuminating discussion of Alvin Kernan’s memoir In Plato’s Cave, a mordant account of Kernan’s distinguished career as a professor and later provost and dean at Yale and Princeton. At Yale in the 1950s, tenure, like hiring itself, was governed by political favoritism and old boy networking. It was only with the collapse of the academic job market in the late 1960s—and, I would add, the impact on the academy of new social movements such as feminism and civil rights—that tenure was transformed into a fairly transparent and equitable institution designed to ensure due process in faculty appointments. Yet, as Teichgraeber shows, the paradigm for this transformation in the institution of tenure was set by elite research institutions like Yale. Why, he asks, should the model of a specialized research scholar be the dominant and even the sole standard by which to judge and award continuous faculty appointment? Given the diversity of academia today, and the need, most importantly, to address the unjust conditions endured by precarious employees, should there not be many different paths to job security in higher education?

Jeffrey Buller’s “The Two Cultures of Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century and Their Impact on Academic Freedom” revisits C.P. Snow’s famous lament concerning the bifurcation of intellectual culture into two antithetical traditions: the sciences and the humanities. If Snow’s diatribe was an attack on the scientific philistinism of the British ruling class, Buller argues that a yawning gap is opening today between those who view a university education as the cornerstone of a democratic society, and those who view it simply as a form of job training or as an economic development program. The latter camp, according to Buller, includes most contemporary politicians, who are of course the same people who not only make decisions regarding the funding of higher education, but also select boards of trustees and presidents. The result is an increasing emphasis on vocational education, and an insistence that research of all kinds should have a virtually immediate positive economic impact. In the eyes of these latter-day Gradgrinds, students should only study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines, they should be severely discouraged from taking time to explore various disciplines before declaring their majors, and academic freedom should exist only to the extent that it facilitates the development of innovative products and untapped markets. To bridge the two cultures of contemporary higher education, and thereby to defend academic freedom, Buller argues, we need to emphasize not simply the edifying and critical function played by the humanities and social sciences but also their important economic benefits. Is this a Faustian pact? Buller does not tackle this question, but it is an important one given the endorsement of intellectual, cultural, and education industries as an urban growth machine by institutions such as NYU.

The next three essays all deal with various assaults on academic freedom, and are therefore of particular consequence given the unfolding crisis at the University of Illinois. In “The Case of the Student Racist Facebook Message,” Timothy Shiell discusses debates about university hate speech policies, which have been unfolding for over thirty years. Despite the fact that broad regulations concerning hate speech on campus have repeatedly been struck down by courts, Shiell notes, most universities still have policies that violate free speech guarantees. Shiell’s paper employs an engaging heuristic device of a hypothetical racist Facebook posting by a student, and a debate over the ensuing forms of discipline to which the university subjects this student, in order to evaluate the emerging issue of cyber hate speech. Shiell analyzes various allegations lodged in this hypothetical case, including that the student was using abusive language, that this language was a form of harassment, that it infringed the institution’s computer conduct code, and that it violated university discriminatory conduct policy. All of these allegations, Shiell concludes, are unsustainable. Drawing on case law in which civility rules have repeatedly been struck down by the courts, Shiell argues that to be punishable, speech must constitute genuine harassment and a direct threat. Public university officials, Shiell concludes, do not have the right to silence students or punish their speech, including their use of social media, unless that speech meets very strict and specific legal requirements.

Gerald Turkel’s “Emergencies and Due Process: Developing an Involuntary Emergence Leave Policy at the University of Delaware” discusses the 2010 suspension of two faculty members after it was concluded that they posed a danger to themselves and their colleagues. The background to this discussion of course is the terrible spate of campus violence of recent years, from Virginia Tech to the University of California, Santa Barbara. While most institutions have developed policies relating to student conduct, Turkel argues, many have yet to articulate clear guidelines for how to cope with faculty members who engage in dangerous or erratic behavior. What kind of procedures can the university establish, Turkel asks, in order to respect faculty members while also reacting in the timely manner consistent with such recognized emergencies? Turkel’s discussion follows the debates that unfolded at the University of Delaware as a policy was drafted that aimed to balance maximum due process, confidentiality, and campus safety. One of the key issues debated at Delaware was how to distinguish emergency situations from non-emergency situations. Of equal consequence in the debates, however, was faculty concern over administrative power grabbing. Turkel argues that faculty at the University of Delaware came to believe that no policy was essentially a tacit policy, since it left all power in the hands of administrators. Having reached this conclusion, Delaware faculty proceeded to draft an emergency involuntary leave policy through an inclusive and judicious process that included reviews of other institution’s protocols. This process, Turkel implicitly suggests, offers a model of how shared governance can permit policies to be developed that govern even the most challenging conditions that confront university campuses today.

Concluding this section on contemporary challenges to academic freedom, Adria Battaglia considers the use of academic freedom as a kind of rhetorical football in her essay “Opportunities of Our Own Making: The Struggle for Academic Freedom.” Far from being a transparent and universal guarantee of freedom of inquiry, speech, and learning in higher education, academic freedom is a privileged label that grants legitimacy to those who wield it, Battaglia suggests. In particular, Battaglia documents David Horowitz’s campaign with the organization Students for Academic Freedom to demonize professors teaching what he views as partisan material. As Battaglia astutely observes, the great majority of the people whom Horowitz attacks teach in women’s studies or ethnic studies departments; virtually none of them teach in economics departments. Horowitz’s ideas about partisan political content in scholarship and teaching are thus clearly partisan, and yet he consistently attempts to frame academic freedom in terms of the right to learn and the responsibility to teach material that is universally accepted and true. To counter Horowitz’s rhetorical moves, Battaglia offers a valuable history of academic freedom, in the course of which she distinguishes it from free speech by noting that the former became established practice (thanks in part to the efforts of the AAUP) before the latter had been accepted in many states. Battaglia argues that academic freedom’s increasing subsumption by loose notions of free speech has made it an easy tool to use in attacking radicals. To challenge this subsumption, Battaglia returns to the key 1957 US Supreme Court decision recognizing academic freedom as protected by the First Amendment. This statement, Battaglia argues, was crucially influenced by arguments from a group of senior South African scholars who were intent on challenging official state policies of apartheid, or legalized racial segregation. Battaglia suggests that, in citing this statement, the Supreme Court established a broad conception of academic freedom that included the protection of the university as a site of politicized, dissident thought.

The final set of three essays included in this volume focus on electronic communications and academic freedom. We lead with Jonathan Poritz’s “Open Access to Technology: Shared Governance of the Academy’s Virtual World,” which focuses on the lack of shared governance over a key site of the contemporary university: information technology. Poritz argues that faculty members seldom have any idea about, let alone any input into, decisions regarding this essential domain of university operations. All too often, Poritz says, a small group of administrators makes decisions about operating systems that affect fundamental aspects of faculty and student life. So-called “learning management systems” such as Blackboard are procured by administrators, at great cost to the university and with little faculty oversight, when inexpensive open-access alternatives are often available. Indeed, as Poritz observes, such open-access systems are often forbidden on campuses. Citing the looming threat of MOOCs, Poritz argues that faculty members need to see IT as a key site of shared governance and academic freedom. To head off pernicious forms of outsourcing using IT, we must agitate, Poritz argues, for two key principles: academic network freedom, and shared academic network governance. These principles dictate that decisions about information technology should be made through the same procedures of shared governance with which other aspects of academic life are deliberated. In addition, openness should be a fundamental guideline in relation to university IT: among other implications, this means that administrators should share budget information regarding IT purchases, scholars should share their datasets with colleagues whenever possible, and publications should be open access. Poritz’s essay sounds an alarm bell about the need to democratize a crucial but all too often overlooked aspect of higher education.

In “On the Pros and Cons of Being a Faculty Member at E-Text University,” Jenny Bossaller and Jenna Kammer discuss a related and similarly under-acknowledged area of concern relating to electronic communications. For Bossaller and Kammer, increasingly popular e-textbooks and “courses-in-a-box” constitute a significant threat to academic freedom. Such resources are attractive to administrators since they allow instructors to teach more students for less money. For overworked (and often precarious) professors, they can be seductive because they significantly diminish faculty workload. But, as Bossaller and Kammer relate, there are many negative aspects to these outsourced materials. Their steep costs, for example, are usually passed on to students. Since they come as pre-constituted packages of course materials, they essentially hand over authority for preparing class materials to mammoth, increasingly monopolistic corporations. Skill-based rather than liberal arts models of education frequently dictate the course materials in such e-texts, and they are frequently oriented around the quantifiable metrics required of accreditation programs rather than the more qualitative assessments of critical pedagogy. For Bossaller and Kammer, when various forms of e-text are adopted, the materials chosen should preserve maximum flexibility and choice for instructors, and open access systems should be given preference over proprietary ones.

This volume of the Journal of Academic Freedom concludes with Dan Colson’s “On the Ground in Kansas: Social Media, Academic Freedom, and the Fight for Higher Education,” which discusses the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) policy on the “Improper Use of Social Media.” This policy holds that social media such as Facebook and Twitter postings should be put under identical scrutiny as scholarly articles. In addition, since the writing up of scholarly research is part of one’s official duties as an employee of a state university in Kansas, university administrators in Kansas can fire professors if their writings are seen as damaging the interests of the university. Opposition to KBOR’s policy swiftly arose, Colson relates. Activists rightly recognized that this policy infringed not simply academic freedom, but also shared governance and tenure. But what, Colson asks, is the best strategy for fighting the “Improper Use of Social Media” policy? Drawing on a similar distinction between academic freedom and free speech as that made by Battaglia, Colson argues that the latter is not a firm ground for opponents of KBOR policy. Free speech is not, Colson reminds us, guaranteed in the workplace since the First Amendment only protects citizens from government infringements. Worse still, the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos establishes a dangerous precedent by holding that individuals in public institutions do not qualify for First Amendment protection since they speak as employees rather than private citizens. Colson argues that KBOR drew on the Garcetti decision in drafting its policy on social media. Activists fighting this policy therefore need to disarticulate free speech and academic freedom in order to emphasize that the latter warrants greater protection than the former. Concluding the article, Colson suggests that activists in Kansas need to link academic freedom to the production of original, critical knowledge. Equally crucially, Colson makes a case for linking the KBOR attack on academic freedom to a broader neoconservative siege on and defunding of higher education. To counter these attacks, we must challenge the reduction of higher education to job training and economic development, Colson argues, making the case, instead, for academia as a site of critical education for the people of Kansas and beyond.

The challenges to academic freedom today are legion. Indeed, as the essays in this volume of the Journal of Academic Freedom make clear, the foundations of the modern university are under unprecedented stress today. During my two-year editorship of JAF, there has been much contention over the definition of academic freedom itself. From debates over academic boycotts to campaigns for and against the firing of faculty for statements on social media, academic freedom is invoked by nearly everyone to justify their antagonistic positions. Given the capaciousness and radical limitations of the concept of academic freedom, the temptation is strong to discount the term entirely as an empty cipher manipulated by whoever has the most power in the university. But this would be a terrible mistake: academic freedom continues to be a vital tool for dissident voices intent on speaking truth to power. As Edward Said reminded us in speaking of the role of the intellectual, articulating such dissenting views may mean being “relegated to the role of a witness who testifies to a horror otherwise unrecorded.”9 For Said, it is the task of the intellectual to persist despite such marginalization. Yet sometimes dissidence may prevail, strengthening the institution that harbors it. As I argued here, academic freedom should be seen as a necessary (if not sufficient) resource in the struggle to decolonize and democratize the university. I hope the essays this journal has published over the last two years have contributed to this effort.

Thanks to Bill Mullen and Manijeh Nasrabadi for feedback on portions of this introduction. My deep gratitude to Gwendolyn Bradley, Ezra Deutsch-Feldman, and Edward Graham for their assistance during my time as editor of JAF.


1. Cary Nelson, No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 38. Back to text.
2. Nelson, 31. Back to text.
3. Nelson, 32. Back to text.
4. Jennifer Washburn, University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education (New York: Basic Books, 2005). Back to text.
5. Ashley Dawson and Malini Johar Schueller, eds., Dangerous Professors: Academic Freedom and the National Security Campus (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009). Back to text.
6. Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira, eds., The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), 6. Back to text.
7. Chatterjee and Maira, 42. Back to text.
8. Chatterjee and Maira, 43. Back to text.
9. Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Random House, 1994), xvii. Back to text.