From the Editor: In the Crosshairs

By Aaron Barlow

The AAUP was founded to protect the rights of faculty members at American colleges and universities. Today, it does this through collective bargaining and advocacy activities within campus communities as well as through its work on behalf of faculty members within the broader public sphere. These activities place the AAUP squarely in the crosshairs of forces trying to undermine institutions of higher education from within and from without.

But the tools at the AAUP’s disposal may no longer be sufficient for the tasks it sets out to accomplish unless every AAUP member becomes more active, on campus and within our broader communities. We must be resolute in our commitment to core AAUP principles. Wringing our hands as another professor is targeted for a campaign of harassment on social media is not only useless but also counterproductive. We need to start formulating responses that make caving to attacks impossible.

The first step each of us as AAUP members should take is to convince at least one colleague to join the Association. The quick growth that would result would empower the organization more than any other action. There are challenges to academic freedom and shared governance on every campus, challenges that fall hardest on adjunct and other contingent faculty. We need to be working together as a group to protect the most threatened among us. The image of the faculty has been tarnished over the past several decades by attacks that have not been answered by a concerted, long-term response. Instead of simply responding angrily to each new attack, we need to work together to establish a more accurate public perception of the faculty.

Regardless of our employment status, we have a responsibility not only to our students and our institutions but also to our communities. We cannot fulfill that responsibility unless we are able to work together as a group, as professionals with clear dedication to the good of all in our society.

This issue focuses on a profession that finds itself in the crosshairs. Aaron Nisenson, in the opening article, looks at the current fraught teaching environment and offers advice on the legal rights of faculty. Hans-Joerg Tiede then introduces a series of firsthand accounts written by faculty members on the notorious Professor Watchlist. These articles are followed by Larry Gara’s look back at a career in higher education defined by one man’s moral choices. Carolyn Betensky and Michael Bérubé, in the following two articles, describe failed and successful efforts by tenured and tenure-track faculty members to support their contingent colleagues. The print edition concludes with Jay Smith’s account of what can happen when a faculty member challenges big-time college athletics.

The online edition features three additional articles, each relating to a different aspect of faculty work. Nicky Hayes and Robert J. Sternberg address an issue that often puts promotion committees at cross-purposes with the interests of academic disciplines; Florence Neymotin discusses the nuts and bolts of responding to interview questions by hiring committees; and Ryan McIlhenny writes about the theoretical and practical tools faculty hope liberal arts students will develop.  

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