Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Academic freedom

From "Entering the academic freedom arena running : The AAUP's first year" [Daniel H. Pollitt, from Academe Jul/Aug 1998 - 1915, 5 investigations in universities having dismissed faculty on ideological or employment grounds - problems had arisen (that is: faculty had been dismissed) through governor's, Mormons', legislature's interference, "harmony of the college", authority of the Presidents]: just a few pointers about what territory of questions is covered:

. at the end of the first busy year, practice had cleared some recognizable roads on the wilderness, possible to formulate in a "General Declaraion of Principles" and a set of "Practical Proposals". "Describing the familiar tripartite function of the university to 'promote inquiry and advance the sum of human knowledge... to provide general instruction... and ... to develop experts for various branches of the public service."
The second report (Univ of Colorado) inquired into a situation where the President had to remind the governor "that the discharge of any member of a university faculty for anything which he might say in his capacity as a citizen was a very serious matter and that the preservation of academic freedom was one of the first responsibilities of any university." I find that difficult to quite square, with the notion of un-public universities. Where does this autonomy ground its legitimacy, exactly? The un-public nature of this "public" and this "service".

. must therefore, to enlist persons of "high gifts and character", offer faculty "assurances of an honorable and secure position". Crucial to this "is academic freedom of inquiry, of teaching, and of extramural utterance and action. While recognizing the 'essential and highly honorable place' that trustees held within the university, the declaration upheld the faculty's 'primary responsibility' for 'purely scientific [how strange to see the term used here, so clear-sounding and in fact loud in English] and educational questions' and the need to ensure that in those 'occasional cases in which the aberrations of individuals [require] definite disciplinary action," that action can be taken only by bodies "composed of members of the academic profession."

. involved also at several stages, naturally: freedom of speech. Also: the first report ended up describing the situation at the Univ of Utah in terms of: "The government of this university is a government of men and not of laws."

. other recommendations and analyses of problem situations: "that universities should submit their acts and policies to public scrutiny", "make tenure available to faculty members to ensure freedom of inquiry and teaching", that administrators and trustees must allow "a divervengy of opinion" within their institutions and not punish professors for criticizing the administration or privately questioning the fitness of a trustee". That an institution could not disregard consideration of "equity" and heed only considerations of "efficiency" or "harmony" without courting disaster. That professors must have academic freedom in the classroom but also have right to testify before public bodies - rights to engage in extramural speech in subjects both in and outside their academic specialities. And of course need for due process with regard to all dismissals. Legals paths to.

. interestingly, the threats on faculty has changed and not changed. What this is most useful for is as a measure of the particular configuration of pressure now.

Rappel : les ébats et éclats des Students for Academic Freedom, jeune troupe activiste cheerleading autour de David Horowitz, depuis le DH Freedom Center (ci-devant Center for the Study of Popular Culture - où "popular" prend une couleur très identifiable), avec les Academic Bill of Rights (ici aussi, le détournement de la tradition républicaine américaine). Liens avec Campus Watch et Fox News - analyste régulier.
Auto-identité : "The Students for Academic Freedom Information Center is a clearing house and communications center for a national coalition of student organizations whose goal is to end the political abuse of the university and to restore integrity to the academic mission as a disinterested pursuit of knowledge." The simple trick is to "expose" the politicization of academe, in the name of scientific rigour and freedom of speech - while by the same gesture repoliticizing absolutely.

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