Does Academic Freedom Have a Future?

Prognostications about the future of academic freedom will be informed best by the lessons of its past. And if there is any lesson to be learned from the AAUP’s first century, it is that academic freedom can never be taken for granted. While academic freedom is one of the foundations of greatness in the American higher education system, it has always been—and always will be—contested and vulnerable. Academic freedom must be fought for repeatedly, and there will be no final victory in the struggle.

The Professoriate Reconsidered

What will the work of the faculty look like in 2050? We suspect it may be quite different from both of the models that currently predominate: research-oriented faculty members with tenure or on the tenure track, on the one hand, and, on the other, non-tenure-track, mostly part-time faculty members, who typically carry out little research. Neither of these models, in our view, is adequate to today’s enterprise—one that is increasingly focused on teaching first-generation and low-income students, often online.

The Personal Ethics of Academic Freedom: Problems of Knowledge and Democratic Competence

The following essay takes up Robert Post’s influential account of academic freedom in order to consider the role of personal ethics in practices surrounding academic freedom. The essay begins by outlining and proposing some revisions of Post’s account. It then considers three topics that are connected with academic freedom: the responsibilities of academics in extramural speech; in professional evaluation of research; and, finally, in tenure decisions.

Everything Old Is New Again: Bertrand Russell and Steven Salaita

The decision by trustees of the University of Illinois to revoke a tenured position offered to Steven Salaita evokes another, long-ago controversy. In 1940, a New York court revoked the appointment of Bertrand Russell to a faculty position at the College of the City of New York, in part because of Russell’s allegedly “immoral” writings. It is difficult, if not impossible, to simultaneously deplore Russell’s firing and support Salaita’s.

Tenure Matters: An Historian’s Perspective

This paper juxtaposes (i) the findings of the 2006 Modern Language Association Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion with (ii) the story that Alvin Kernan tells -- in his professorial memoir In Plato’s Cave (1999) -- about his pursuit of tenure at Yale in the 1950s and early 1960s to advance the view that “tenure” is best understood as a practice defined by a set of protocols that have been created and elaborated over time.

The Disemboweled University: Online Knowledge and Academic Freedom

Over the past several decades a number of scholars have examined academic freedom. By and large, and understandably, many of those examinations have been situated in social or political frameworks. Notable examples include Paul Lazarsfeld and Wagner Thielens, The Academic Mind, Ellen Schrecker’s No Ivory Tower, and two early examples, Jane Sanders, Cold War on the Campus, and George Stewart’s compelling first-person account, The Year of the Oath. Many of these works examine events at a single institution (as did Sanders), such as Lionel Lewis’s account of the Lattimore case at the Johns Hopkins University and Charles McCormick’s This Nest of Vipers.

Fundamental Freedom or Fringe Benefit? Rice University and the Administrative History of Tenure, 1935–1963

Despite deep historical roots, tenure as we know it today has a relatively short history. Although the most prominent professors occasionally received special tenure privileges as early as the Middle Ages, tenure as a general practice is a twentieth-century invention.

In 1915, the recently established AAUP published a Declaration of Principles recognizing that the “dignity” of the professorial office required “security of tenure.” But the declaration provided little detail about what exactly “security of tenure” might mean or which policies should be adopted. The meaning of tenure remained unstable until at least 1940, when the AAUP codified its evolving position in a new Statement of Principles. This platform outlined the need for a “probationary period” in tenure-track positions and also specified two goals: (1) “freedom of teaching and research” and (2) “a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive.”

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 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.


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