Cary Nelson

From the President: Button Up

I was using my standard syllabus for my seminar in the poetry of Langston Hughes and Claude McKay during the fall 2008 election season. As serendipity would have it, the night Barack Obama won the presidency the poems my students were assigned to read included Hughes’s “Children’s Rhymes.” Here is the second stanza:

By what sends

the white kids

I ain’t sent:

I know I can’t

be President.

From The President: Campus Equity Year

A crisis, we often say nervously, is also an opportunity. But such opportunities are available to multiple, competing constituencies that may not share the same values, priorities, loyalties, goals, and sense of mission.

Such is the nature of the financial crisis now upon us. In higher education we confront the consequences campus by campus. The pressures vary according to each institution’s funding stream.

Always Lobotomize

Save the World on Your Own Time. Stanley Fish. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

From the President: Whose Academic Freedom?

Thirty years ago, as a recently tenured associate professor, I was one of the first beneficiaries of a new department rule—that all faculty members would periodically teach first-year composition. The guidelines for the course had changed quite a bit over the years, but two that were in place at the time presented me with problems: that I had to choose one of five textbooks that had been selected and that I had to assign ten papers over the course of the fifteen-week semester. Invoking academic freedom, I informed the course chairperson that I would do neither.

From the President: Dues Reform

Those of you who were at the AAUP’s annual meeting this year had the opportunity to attend our immensely successful international conference on academic freedom. From an experience that has often mixed moments of inspiration with the rhythms of an annual death march, the annual meeting overnight was transformed into a major intellectual event. The Chronicle of Higher Education alone carried nine separate stories about the conference. People enjoyed themselves. We will expand the conference next year.

From The President: Bad-Faith Bargaining

As the AAUP moves toward implementation of its restructuring plan and the creation of a traditional 501c(5) labor union, we should ask ourselves how we can further enhance the effectiveness and visibility of those parts of our organization that are involved in  collective bargaining.

Don’t Mourn, Organize

For the past fifteen years, the state of Rhode Island has contracted with the University of Rhode Island to fund approximately ten graduate assistants in the physical therapy department in exchange for each providing ten hours a week of physical therapy to patients at Eleanor Slater Hospital, which houses patients with acute and long-term medical illness, as well as those with psychiatric disorders. But that funding was eliminated in the last round of state budget cuts. Those students are without funding and the patients are without physical therapy.

—Report of a union activist at the University of Rhode Island.

From the President: Ethics and Corporatization

Almost every institutional problem we confront in higher education today situates us at the intersection of ethics and corporatization. Should we protect our lower-paid colleagues from pay cuts and furloughs? Should higher-paid faculty and administrators make sacrifices for community members living on the margins? Which is more important—a new campus building or free health care for all employees?

From the President: Why We Need Dues Reform

In fall 2007, the AAUP began sending out twice-monthly emails to nearly 400,000 faculty members nationwide. About 350,000 of those were nonmembers. We called attention to our key policy statements and reports, alerted people to emerging higher education issues, and publicized AAUP initiatives. As a result, many faculty members are better informed about what the AAUP is and what it does. Tens of thousands now have an intellectual, philosophical, political, and professional relationship with the AAUP that they did not have before.

Securing the Three-Legged Stool

No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom. Cary Nelson. New York: New York University Press, 2010


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