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Academic Freedom

Graduate Student Academic Freedom and the Apprenticeship Myth

In fall 2009, my university’s newly hired director of programs in professional writing circulated a survey asking business writing instructors to note which of the long list of tasks, skills, and assignments they taught in their classes. Many of us blithely responded to the survey: what harm could come from his desire to know the overlaps and discontinuities amongst the program’s instructors, many of whom had been teaching these courses for years? By early spring 2010, we learned that he was not simply gathering information. He announced that he “likely [would] define the core content” of the two major business writing courses, a move that would impose “an instructional core ... of ten weeks.” The survey apparently had been either our only major opportunity to help shape this core or flimsy evidence to justify changes the new director already had planned. His e-mail did assure us that “the program is not proposing or adopting a single pedagogy for all sections”; he merely was dictating 70 percent of what we would teach.

Professionalization as the Basis for Academic Freedom and Faculty Governance

In 1994, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) adopted a policy statement, On the Relationship of Faculty Governance to Academic Freedom. The statement asserted that these two principles—faculty governance and academic freedom—are “inextricably linked,” so that neither is “likely to thrive” except “when they are understood to reinforce one another.” The statement further noted that the close connection between academic freedom and faculty governance was reflected in the earliest work of the AAUP.

The AAUP, Academic Freedom, and the Cold War

The Cold War was a tough time for the American Association of University Professors. Unlike today, its dual roles of white-collar union and professional association did not comfortably coexist. Indeed, at key moments, the AAUP’s readiness to defend members’ interests was noticeably absent. This paper will examine one instance when academic freedom was breached, but the organization remained silent. It will focus less on the AAUP than on the academic freedom case itself; the AAUP entered the story, and partially redeemed itself, five years later when it commenced an investigation, issued a report, and subsequently imposed a censure.

The Eroding Foundations of Academic Freedom and Professional Integrity: Implications of the Diminishing Proportion of Tenured Faculty for Organizational Effectiveness in Higher Education

The tenure system is the predominant faculty personnel system in the vast majority of universities and colleges, but a declining proportion of faculty actually hold tenure-track appointments. The full significance of this decline is often underestimated because an appreciation of the tenure system requires an understanding not only of its contribution to academic freedom, but also of how tenure contributes to effective academic organizations.

Ward Churchill at the Dalton Trumbo Fountain: Academic Freedom in the Aftermath of 9/11

How many of the three hundred people who gathered around the Dalton Trumbo Fountain in front of the University of Colorado’s student center on March 3, 2005, to hear Ward Churchill speak understood the irony of the location? Trumbo, a successful screenwriter and Colorado alumnus, had been one of the so-called “Hollywood Ten” who were imprisoned and blacklisted for defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. Churchill, like Trumbo an outspoken radical, had just become the target of a nationwide campaign to eject him from his position as a tenured professor of American Indian studies on the Colorado faculty. In a hasty essay, written to explain why the perpetrators of the attack on the World Trade Center would have been so hostile to the United States, he had characterized the 9/11 victims as “little Eichmanns.” That unfortunate phrase, unremarked at the time, emerged with a vengeance three years later in conjunction with a planned speech he was to give at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Catapulted into notoriety by right-wing bloggers and talk-show hosts, Churchill then came under attack by Colorado politicians, who forced the university to investigate and then dismiss its controversial faculty member.

Hidden (and Not-So-Hidden) New Threats to Faculty Governance

Faculty governance has been under serious attack across the country in recent years. Some of the threats are obvious; others are not. Some are directly connected to one another; others are linked only by their ultimate effects. In Parts 1 and 2, I describe an outrageous Residence Life program at my institution. While this so-called “educational” program was a flagrant violation of students’ rights, its appropriation of faculty prerogatives and responsibilities was no less important. In Parts 3 and 4, I discuss several other current threats to faculty governance.

Rethinking Academic Traditions for Twenty-First-Century Faculty

The American Association of University Professors’ 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, defined the essential features of the academic profession in the early twentieth century: academic freedom, shared governance, and job security. Now, seventy years later, the number of faculty members in the United States has grown from approximately 147,000 in 1940 to approximately 1,140,000 today, and colleges and universities now number 4,168—more than double the 1,708 in the 1940s (Gappa, Austin, and Trice, 2007, p.60.) While important traditions of the academic profession have been retained, faculty members themselves, their work, and their institutions have changed dramatically. Today’s faculty members are diverse; they occupy different types of appointments; and their expectations about their work environments include new concerns, such as sufficient flexibility to manage both their work and life responsibilities. Their colleges and universities also face difficult challenges. They must create environments that attract highly diverse students, find new sources of revenue as traditional sources decline, maintain and enhance their technological infrastructures within budgetary constraints, and respond to numerous demands for accountability imposed by the public.

Institutionalized Attacks on Academic Freedom: The Impact of Mandates by State Departments of Education and National Accreditation Agencies on Academic Freedom

Academic freedom in education has always been and continues to be a critical and irreplaceable component in fostering a participatory democracy and a critically engaged citizenry. In fact, when comparing the education systems of democratic and totalitarian societies throughout history, nothing contrasts more consistently than attitudes and practices toward intellectual freedom and control over what is taught in schools. Anton Makarenko (1955) wrote, “It was clear to me that details of human personality and behavior could be made from dies, simply stamped out en masse” (p.165). It’s safe to say that Makarenko was a true believer in standardized education.


The Corporatization of American Higher Education: Merit Pay Trumps Academic Freedom OR More Discretionary Power for Administrators over Faculty: You’re Kidding Me, Right?

I decided to include the irreverent alternative title to this essay because, when I was first presented by our faculty union with the proposal for increased reliance on merit pay for pay raises, my initial response remains my most persistent thought on the subject: “You’re kidding me, right?” I have discovered that neither my administration nor my union leaders were kidding, yet the joke remains on me and the rest of my colleagues who are now subjected to the wonders of the grand idea and the realities of the perverse execution of the concept of merit pay in the university.

“I Have No Idea What You Do Out Here”: Community Colleges, Academic Freedom, and the University as Global Marketplace

We are professors of history and English, respectively, at Kingsborough Community College, located in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. Founded in 1963 during a rapid nationwide expansion of community colleges, Kingsborough, which serves some thirty thousand students a year, is one of six two-year institutions that are part of the City University of New York, the nation’s third-largest university system. Kingsborough is perched on Brooklyn’s Atlantic edge, on the site of a former merchant marine facility.


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