From the Editor: The New Reality

By Aaron Barlow

According to right-wing gadfly David Horowitz, the AAUP stymied his “seven-year campaign to restore the concept of academic freedom.” He credits Cary Nelson, former president of the AAUP, and the “radical” gover­nance of the Association for his defeat. Horowitz’s fundamental misreading of the AAUP’s own 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Tenure and Academic Freedom creates, for him, an irony: the organization that bested him defined the core principle he claims to be defending. In reality, the defeat of Horowitz and his so-called Academic Bill of Rights was a victory for academic freedom over an Orwellian vision of the academy.

Victory though it was, the conflict with Horowitz was nothing compared with the battles that are looming. Academia and the AAUP face a new real­ity. Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case that will come before the Supreme Court this year, once again challenges the right of faculty to engage in collec­tive action. A business-friendly administration is likely to loosen control over the for-profit institutions that have gouged thousands of students who thought they were paying for real education. The corporate model of governance that has increasingly shut out faculty contributions continues to grow in impact. Funding for public higher education is under constant threat. And mistrust of the academy, epitomized by the dismissal of science that underlies climate-change denial, continues to grow.

In the lead article in this issue, Henry Reichman lays out in stark terms the challenges facing the AAUP. His account is followed by Ellen Schrecker’s examination of how the AAUP may be able to meet those challenges. Joan W. Scott, interviewed by Bill Moyers, discusses the dangers the contemporary Right poses to academia. Joshua A. Cuevas next provides a personal account of cyberattacks along with an exhortation for a united response. In the final print features, Heather K. Olson Beal, with Brent D. Beal and Paul J. P. Sandul, looks at the 2017 travel bans and the responses of academic organizations, and Samuel J. Abrams explodes the myth of widespread political activism within the professoriate.

On the web, Timothy Barnett and Erica R. Meiners focus on prisons, public funding, and higher education; Evelyn Morales Vazquez and John S. Levin examine neo­liberalism and its impact on the faculty; and, for a bit of relief, Robert Jerome, Robert Horn, and David Cavazos look at the tenure process through the lens of The Wizard of Oz.

As we enter 2018, academia is in a fragile state. One indication of this reality is that Horowitz, perhaps believing he smells blood, is back in the fray with The Left in the University, volume 8 of The Black Book of the American Left. The quest to bring American universities under the doctrinaire control of the Right is raising its weary head once again. And this time, feeding on the energies that propelled Donald Trump into office, the right-wing assault might develop the strength to succeed—unless we stand together to protect higher education for the common good.