Category Archives: academic freedom

November 21, 2013, 10:35 am

Blogging for Free Speech and Academic Freedom: The 1000th Post


Illustration by Ernest Hopf.

Given that my reply to one commenter had become post-length (look at the comments section of the prior post) I decided to make a few small edits and elevate it to the main page of the blog. I do so with a message to those opposing the resolution for an academic boycott of Israel at #2013ASA: stop throwing stones, and focus. The principles of free speech and academic freedom are, I believe, positive and compelling reaons to defeat an American Studies Association (ASA) boycott of Israel based on the principles laid out by PACBI. Questioning the motives and ethical stances of fellow academics affiliated with BDS is not. I have been particularly concerned by unwarranted charges of antisemitism and racism, on this blog, in the academic #twittersphere.

I would also like to say…

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November 20, 2013, 9:42 am

Letter to the ASA Opposing the Proposed Academic Boycott of Israel

182377754_400x400_FrontTo: John Stephens, Executive Director of the American Studies Association

Subject: Opposition to proposed resolution before the National Council of the ASA for an academic boycott of Israel.

Dear John,

Please count me as an ASA member who opposes the proposed sanctions of Israel’s academic institutions and, by logical extension, the scholars associated with those institutions, that has been put before the Council by the Academic and Community Activism Caucus. Scholars of any nation ought to be free to travel, publish and collaborate across borders: I consider this to be a fundamental human right, and so does the United Nations. We in the American Studies Association cannot defend some of those human rights and disregard others. (more…)

November 19, 2013, 1:09 pm

Burned-out, Dissenting and Staying Home: On Not Attending the ASA Annual Meeting

boyoboyI had not planned to attend this year’s American Studies Association Meeting, which is just as well. After I learned this week that a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel would be presented for discussion, I realized I need a time out from American Studies. Part of this is that the organization — which I have always loved, and still love, for its activism — has taken itself in an intellectual direction that I sometimes no longer even understand. This year’s meeting, for example, bears the theme, “Beyond the Logic of Debt: Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent.”

Does anyone but me look at this and say “Why does this one thing before the colon seem not to bear any relationship to the thing after the colon?” Speaking of colitis, some are getting it from next year’s CFP, which seems to deliberately mock the idea of scholarly meetings by arguing that conferences may …

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September 7, 2013, 12:17 pm

Department of Academic Freedom: Asking Students To Other Themselves


Why not have your students imitate gum salesgirls in public?

In a victory for academic freedom, Columbia State Community College psychology professor has been cleared of charges that an assignment on homosexuality harassed and discriminated against students of faith (HT).

The assignment, as I understand it, asked students to wear a gay pride ribbon out in public as they walked about Columbia, Tennessee. They were then to record their thoughts and observations for course credit. Although they could choose an alternative assignment, a few students felt that having it on the syllabus at all violated their religious beliefs. Although no student filed a grievance, the Alliance Defending Freedom, run by former conservative anti-pornography activist Alan Sears, filed a complaint against the professor anyway.


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September 1, 2013, 10:40 am

Rewrite Women’s History? I Think Not (And Other Fun From Around The Web)


Take your hand off me before I help myself to another ball, d00d.

You know it’s Labor Day Weekend in New York when you see little packs of kids nodding off on the 7 train, sunburned and exhausted from a day chasing balls at the National Tennis Center.

While we are talking about tennis — what’s this mansplainin’ horse puckey from Bobby Riggs about throwing The Battle of the Sexes in 1973 to pay off his gambling debts? He would rather be remembered as a cheater, a criminal accessory and a thief than as a man who lost to a legendary female champion like Billie Jean King?


This is a man whose narcissism and a$$hattery seem only to be exceeded by that of the sports journalism establishment who rushed to press with a story that seems to have no second source. King says “she was there” and the match was…

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April 14, 2013, 1:34 pm

Can We Have A Conversation About Political Conversation?

no-talkingIt appears that decent, ethical people associated with Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) are speaking out about the nastiness, personal attacks and other silencing tactics that currently characterize the debate over the Israeli Occupation. My trusty RSS feed reports that Columbia law prof Katherine Franke and San Francisco attorney and mediation specialist Frederick Hertz are asking pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli partisans in the United States to share queer intellectual and political space in a more productive way. You can read a report about the call to dialogue at Electronic Intifada.

Clearly, I have some skin in this game. Readers of Tenured Radical will remember an ugly week, not too long ago, in which my expression of doubt about the ethics and efficacy of a cultural boycott against Israel (a view which is not unique on the left, and does not represent an endorsement…

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March 16, 2013, 1:07 pm

The Custom of the Country: Investigating Email @Harvard.Edu

harvard-logo-jpg-180One of the downsides to being Harvard University is that everything you do is publicized as if no one else has ever done it.

Take the undergraduate cheating scandal, that led to the investigation of the cheating scandal, that led to a lot of students being asked to either take a leave to think about their sins or get the hell out of Dodge for good. Students (and proffies!) cheat at lots of institutions, but when it happens at Harvard it seems to be particularly news-worthy.

Why is this? Well, here’s a parallel example. When Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof, daughter of Irish activist rocker Sir Bob “I Don’t Like Mondays” Geldof, was picked up for shoplifting cosmetics last summer (and not for the first time either) it was commented on extensively; the same crimes committed every day by Joe Blow from Kokomo command very little attention. We expect Joe to shoplift: he’s a witless…

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February 14, 2013, 1:36 pm

Why Tenured “Radical”? And Other Political Confessions

It appeared that my ability to join the collective hinged on my agreement with all the criticisms of my past political thinking and work, and not just a willingness to consider them….The criticism indicated that I was inferior to other members of the collective, and I wanted the opportunity to prove that I had a substantial history of work and ideas, and that I should be considered an equal. So I agreed with the criticisms in general, and said I would rethink things in light of the criticism. I thought to myself, I could always change my mind.

Cathy Wilkerson, Flying Too Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as  a Weatherman (2010)

A central theme in several autobiographies of former radical antiwar activists is the role that criticism sessions played in persuading people to adopt a new world view, one that ran counter to attitudes they might previously have valued as members of …

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February 9, 2013, 12:38 pm

Protest, Engage and Discuss: Brooklyn College, the Occupation and Academic Freedom

Bloomberg to City Council critics: Brooklyn is not Pyongyang!  Photo credit.

As of this writing, despite saber-rattling of various kinds by donors and politicians, the Brooklyn College event featuring speakers from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) seems to have gone off without a hitch. The Israeli state still exists; the Palestinian people do not yet have a state of their own; and the Mayor of New York has affirmed the principle of free speech in our public university system. Read about it here.

I realize that it is conventional to begin a post like this one be declaring that one is not an anti-semite, that one is a supporter of Israel — or not an anti-semite and not a supporter of Israel, and hence a supporter of Palestinian freedom (whatever that means at this moment in history.) I cannot tell you…

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December 29, 2012, 11:46 am

Guns Do Kill People, You Nitwits: The Bizarro News Of The Day

Despite the obvious fact that guns have to be activated by people in order to kill other people, it is also true that without a gun, a person cannot kill another person in the most efficient way possible — particularly when that person is running away or cowering in the corner.

Therefore, counter to the assertions of the fun with guns crowd and their trade organization, the National Rifle Association, guns do kill people. More guns kill more people. To believe otherwise you would have to be capable of believing outlandish things like — well, that Mitt Romney also won the election in November; or that the Clintons’ murdered one of their old friends; or that Oliver North is a persecuted hero…..


But why does anyone in the national media take anything the NRA or the gun industry says…

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