July 17, 2012, 10:39 am
In the past month, I’ve been in at least four meetings in which tenure has been heavily criticized by those who do not have it or operate outside academe.
As an educational historian, I have written extensively about tenure and academic freedom, especially within the black-college environment. As a professor, I think about my own tenure weekly. I may do this more often than most professors due to the fact that I write a lot of op-ed essays and I’m fairly outspoken. I’m grateful to have tenure as it protects my ability to speak out on issues that are important to me.
I find that those outside of academe do not understand the value of tenure. They often think it is unfair for faculty to have a “job for life” after tenure, often referring to the “one” professor they had who earned tenure and then never wrote another thing. They’ll say, “name another job in which one has total …
July 13, 2012, 5:24 pm
The dreadful scandal at Penn State reached another level on July 12, with the 250-page report of former FBI director Louis Freeh to the university’s board of trustees, culminating a seven-month independent investigation. The report makes clear the complicity of senior officials at the university in covering up convicted child molester and former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assaults on children. The officials include head football coach, the late Joe Paterno, university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, university vice president Gary Schultz, and university police chief Thomas Harmon, all of whom knew enough of the facts to act but who chose instead to turn a blind eye to Sandusky’s concurrent career as a child molester.
The officials chose to pursue a cover up, according to Freeh, because of their fear of bad publicity.
May 11, 2012, 2:44 pm
I oppose same sex marriage. I am agnostic on the extent to which human activities contribute to global warming or climate change and whether the phenomena themselves warrant the major economic dislocations that are proposed as remedies.
In both cases, my positions appear to be at substantial distance from the opinions that prevail in American higher education. And I hasten to add, they are my opinions, not positions taken by the National Association of Scholars. NAS has taken no position on gay marriage or global warming and by its nature can’t. It is an organization that deals with academic standards, the governance of colleges and universities, higher education finance, and public policies that affect scholarship and learning. And it has a membership of some 3,000 mostly academics whose personal views on substantive social and political issues are all over the map.
June 13, 2011, 11:47 am
I have been a member of the American Association of University Professors since I became a faculty member in 2000. A mentor and senior-level professor encouraged me to join during my first faculty position. In addition, my dissertation touched upon issues of academic freedom at historically black colleges and universities, making me familiar with the need for AAUP and the protection of tenure and shared governance.
As a member, I have been active over the years, serving as the chair of the Committee on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Faculty of Color, writing for Academe, speaking at the annual meeting, and serving on an investigating committee.
Given my interests, I was particularly excited to work with General Secretary Gary Rhoades when he began to lead the organization. I have known Gary for several years and knew of his commitment to equity. When he first …
May 27, 2011, 11:12 am
Should tenure be abolished? Naomi Schaefer Riley argues that it should. Her new book, The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For, is a Navy Seal Team Six-style assault on Fortress Tenure: quick, precise, and conducted with air of finality.
That is not to say that she overcomes all my ambivalence on the topic. The tenure system in American colleges and universities does have overwhelming faults. It forces tenure-track faculty members to concentrate disproportionate attention on publishing; it conduces to an attitude of indifference towards both teaching and research among a substantial number of those who achieve it; and it is part of an academic caste system that treats adjuncts (“contingent faculty”) very poorly. Even its faults have faults: The pressure for more and more scholarly publication leads to an ever-growing flood of…
March 30, 2011, 10:24 am
Last week Stephan Thompson, deputy executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, filed an Open Records Law request asking the University of Wisconsin to turn over copies of e-mails from William J. Cronon, a tenured professor of environmental history. The request appears to have been prompted by Professor Cronon’s political activism. On March 15, Cronon published a long blog post titled “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here).”
And on March 21 he published “Wisconsin’s Radical Break” as an op-ed in The New York Times. Both the blog post and the op-ed criticized Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and conservatives in general. The response from the Wisconsin Republican Party has been widely interpreted as a political reprisal, and I see no reason to disagree. Peter Schmidt’s account in the Chronicle …
March 16, 2011, 12:39 pm
Ernst Benjamin, chair of the AAUP subcommittee “Ensuring Academic Freedom In Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions” and former General Secretary of the AAUP:
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, argues in a recent blog post, “Politicizing the Classroom,” that the AAUP’s report “Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions” is an effort to politicize the university rather than to improve the quality of student learning. As the chair of the subcommittee that drafted that report, I disagree with his critique and especially with the contrived assumption that advocacy and learning are contradictory.
After all, Wood’s own arguments would be appropriate in a course on higher education or professional ethics—as would be this rejoinder. The AAUP publishes controversial reports for comment because…
February 23, 2011, 6:45 am
In Part One of this post, I began a review of the new report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) titled Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions. The report is, in effect, a mask for the effort to politicize the university even further. The “controversies” it would protect the university from arise not, as the AAUP would have it, mostly from the “intrusion” of outside parties, but from the attempt to use the university as a platform for partisan political advocacy. In this second and concluding part, I examine some of the ways in which the AAUP attempts to build a firewall around faculty members who abuse their privileges while ignoring others whose academic freedom is genuinely at risk.
All Judgments Welcome, No Questions Asked
At times the authors of the report seem so eager to keep the door of advocacy wide…
December 16, 2010, 9:51 am
Martin Gaskell is an astronomer who specializes in super-massive black holes, such as the one that lies at the heart of own galaxy. He recently tripped, however, and fell into a different kind of black hole — the kind reserved for academics in certain fields who are suspected of being tepid in their disdain for creationism and insufficiently hardy in their support for evolution.
Gaskell is an odd pick for this role. He is as sturdy an orthodox scientist as one might find. With a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a raft of peer-reviewed publications in astronomy (28 refereed papers, 55 conference proceedings), and a record of accomplishment that includes obtaining funding for, and overseeing the design and construction of an observatory at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and eventually running it. He held a non-tenured faculty position.
Several years a…