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Academic Freedom

Why the Left Should Oppose Academic Boycotts: A Response to the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, Volume 4

What the social-democratic left has always objected to is not the liberal aspiration to universal rights and freedoms, but rather the way that classical liberalism generally ignored the unequal economic and social conditions of access to those freedoms. The liberal’s abstract universalism affirmed everyone’s equal rights without giving everyone the real means of realizing these formally universal rights. The rich and the poor may have an equal formal right to be elected to political office, for instance, but the poor were effectively excluded from office when it did not pay a full-time salary. For this reason generations of social democrats have insisted that all citizens must be guaranteed access to the institutional resources they need to make effective use of their civil and political rights.

Academic Freedom with Violence: A Response to the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, Volume 4

If we believe the waning coverage of the American Studies Association’s resolution in the popular press, we would say that the controversy has been retired, and fresher news-items have taken its place. But news cycles have never been tools to measure the importance or duration of a discourse, and they aren’t going to start now. In fact, a discourse has emerged around the legitimacy of knowledge and critique that has to be addressed, a discourse that has gained and will continue to gain footing because it surrounds the issue of whether or not we can bear collective witness to the Palestinian situation. To understand that discourse—its itineraries and its anatomy—we would do well to revisit recent events that may seem residual but are actually still quite dominant.

Response to Cary Nelson and Ernst Benjamin

The responses by Cary Nelson and Ernst Benjamin to the Journal of Academic Freedom’s recent forum on academic boycott offer little new to the familiar litany of objections to the academic and cultural boycott of Israel [ACBI]. Moreover, neither response shows any signs of having seriously read and considered what the essays in the forum actually propose. When they do even refer to them, their misreadings are so egregious that one would almost prefer to presume malice than to impute obtuseness to a colleague. Most extraordinary is that they proceed as if the matter at stake were Israeli academic freedom, the protection of Israeli rights to debate and criticize, the defense of a largely illusory body of Israeli academics that are supposedly engaged in a vigorous critique of the occupation of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens of Israel along with Bedouins in the South Hebron Hills and the Negev, the ethnically exclusive nature of the State of Israel, etc, etc, etc. It would be wonderful if this flourishing sphere of liberal to left critical thought really existed, but it would still not be the issue on hand.

Response to Cary Nelson: A Response to the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, Volume 4

Cary Nelson’s response to essays published in the Journal of Academic Freedom which support the boycott of Israeli universities reproduces the settler-colonial logic contributors to the issue identify as reasons for supporting the boycott in the first place. For example, in response to my argument that “the casual fetishization of academic freedom” is part of a “liberal hegemony that provides ideological cover for brutal acts of intellectual and political terror by Israel,” Nelson writes, “But no one argues that academic freedom covers military action or justifies political terror.”

Response to Cary Nelson and Ernst Benjamin: A Response to the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, Volume 4

I am troubled by the circumstances surrounding the publication of Cary Nelson’s and Ernst Benjamin’s responses to the collection of essays supporting the academic boycott of Israeli universities published in the recent issue of Journal of Academic Freedom. JAF is an online peer reviewed, scholarly journal with an editorial board and a current editor chosen after a process of formal interviewing and academic and professional vetting. The editor of a scholarly journal consults with the editorial board about topics for journal issues and then has the autonomy to select submissions after they have gone through a peer review process.

On Myths, Straw Men and Academic Freedom: A Response to the “Readers Respond” section of the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, Volume 4

Demands for viewpoint balance frequently arise in response to discourse in defense of human rights in Israel/Palestine. So, when Issue 4 of the Journal of Academic Freedom published 6 papers supportive of the academic boycott of Israel and one paper in opposition, controversy ensued. Some critics accused Editor Ashley Dawson of abandoning ethical editorial practices to further a personal political agenda, the sum total of their evidence being that he has expressed opinions on the topic.

The Dismissal of Ralph Turner: A Historical Case Study of Events at the University of Pittsburgh

In the early 1930s, the University of Pittsburgh found itself in a period of increasing uncertainty about what academic freedom meant. The previous decade had been a time of strenuous struggle between the faculty of the institution and chancellor John Gabbert Bowman with regard to scholarship. Bowman had arrived at the university in 1921 with the perspective that faculty serve institutional and community desires and objectives; as a result, a faculty member’s responsibility to his or her discipline was routinely ignored. By 1934, the university still had not created a workable definition of academic freedom.


Negotiating Academic Freedom: A Cautionary Tale

In recent years, there has been a growing concern among academics that traditional protections of academic freedom have been eroded by increasingly intrusive and somewhat ill-informed court decisions. The most recent and prime example of this is the Garcetti v. Ceballos decision by the US Supreme Court and, more alarmingly, its progeny in other courts. Those decisions, and their implications, are the subject of a recently released AAUP special report, Protecting an Independent Faculty Voice: Academic Freedom after Garcetti v. Ceballos. In brief, the Garcetti decision said that in the course of carrying out one’s public employment responsibilities, an employee did not have First Amendment protections of free speech outside the classroom.

Academic Freedom in a State-Sponsored African University: The Case of the University of Mauritius

This paper discusses the issue of academic freedom in the context of Mauritius, with a focus on its first university, the University of Mauritius. The University of Mauritius was set up in the late 1960s, at a time when poverty was rampant in the country and access to education was reserved for the privileged. A government policy of widening access to education has led to a subsidization of education on a national scale and, consequently, to the university being state-funded. Therefore, students pursuing full-time undergraduate degrees do not have to pay tuition.

Academic Freedom in Principle and Practice: The Case of Algeria

Academic freedom in Africa has attracted much attention recently, but few examinations of the subject have incorporated Algeria. On many occasions, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika underlined the crucial role of education and academic institutions in national development, for social transformation, and for the deepening of democracy. The university, he once pointed out, needs to sustain its academic and research endeavors with a view to “meeting social demand for higher learning in an efficient manner and improving the quality of its teaching and research programs.”To reach this goal, additional prestigious national schools specializing in engineering, technology, management, journalism, and political science, to name but a few, had been created in 2009 with the aim of establishing a separate sector of higher education parallel to the universities. The areas of scientific research, technological development, and others have received tremendous financial support from the government. Such results, said the president, will be put to good use in helping the national economy and supporting policies geared towards improving the standard of living of Algerian citizens. However, the state’s efforts frequently conflict with the academic institutions’ policies and their leaders’ private interests, giving rise to encroachments on academic freedom.



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