Academic Freedom/Smackacademic Freedom

With the rising number of marginalized people joining the ranks of professordom, so goes academic freedom. Those who choose to teach inclusive curriculum that examines oppression locally and globally, those who speak out for the rights of those the nation has decided it is right and just to oppress, those who too closely resemble or are members of the margin have all found their jobs invariably at risk.

Recent dismissal have included, Muslim and Jewish professors, professors of color, indigenous professors, and professors with immigrant status from around the world. These dismissals are just one aspect of a backlash toward professors who want the academic rhetoric of global, objective or multi-perspective, education and mission statements about civic responsibility, social justice, global citizenry, etc. to be transformed into practice. Others include: not being renewed at the midpoint, the rise in adjunct and non-tenured positions, the refusal of tenure on the basis of “fit,” and the policing of one’s classroom and office hours done by the U.S. government through the FBI or ICE or by the department or college/university themselves.

An important aspect of this policing is that white men are now finding themselves on the receiving end of the academic freedom smack down, with many being forced into early retirement. When white men with tenure are silenced for speaking out about the plight of global people of color than clearly we are all at risk. The fact it is happening to them, as well as to us, only proves what I constantly tell my students: racism impacts all of us.

The latest person whose career has bitten the dust (story below is taken directly from NPR)

Following Tenure Denial, DePaul Cancels Finkelstein Classes
The academic freedom controversy over the denial of tenure to professor Norman Finkelstein at Chicago’s DePaul University has intensified. On Friday, DePaul administrators announced they’ve cancelled Finkelstein’s remaining classes for the upcoming fall quarter. Finkelstein has one year left on his contract with DePaul. Both classes were filled to capacity. Finkelstein was denied tenure earlier this year. The political science department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recommended tenure for Finkelstein, but the college’s dean and the University Board on Promotion and Tenure recommended against it. Critics say DePaul administrators caved to pressure from outside groups opposed to Finkelstein’s vocal criticism of Israeli government policies. Finkelstein is vowing to defy the administrators’ ban and teach his classes.

One thing to remember is that in most cases a University or College will continue to pay faculty for the duration of their agreements so as to avoid lawsuit. Finkelstein could feasibly offer his classes offsite while being paid by the University who canceled them. However, his students would not get credit for the courses. This means that students with economic and social privilege could take his classes as an act of defiance and solidarity but those who work or cannot afford to be seen by the college providing them their aid to be siding with an ousted professor or by DHS to be siding with a “middle eastern sympathizer” clearly have more at stake.

It is time to start documenting these stories. It is time to demand academic freedom be returned to our schools and our educators. Without it, we are not learning nor teaching, we are simply another tool in the Master’s shed.

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