The Kids Are All Right! Part II


In September I posted a piece entitled “The Kids Are All Right!” in which I praised high school students in Jefferson County, Colorado, who staged mass walkouts to protest a plan by their right-wing school board to establish a curriculum-review committee to not only respond to an allegedly “leftist” AP framework but to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” Now comes this video created by a group of Colorado high school students:

Organized groups of seniors from at least three Boulder Valley high schools are planning to sit out new state tests in protest.  Here is one report of their activity from the website Chalkbeat Colorado:

For the first time, two Colorado school districts could see their high schools face sanctions because a critical mass of seniors are refusing to take the state’s…

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Keynote Address at the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association Academic Freedom Event: Part 1

I also want to commend the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association and the CAUT for responding to the firing of Dr. Robert Buckingham who was dismissed after criticizing the University for its TransformUS project. This “project” designed to save $25 million at the University, was based on Robert Dickeson’s Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services. I have read the excellent critique of Dickeson’s methodology published in your USFA newsletter and will not revisit the particulars on this occasion. Suffice it to say that the main motivation driving prioritization is to cut programs at a time when higher education is being starved for resources and being transformed from being a public good into a private good whose sole purpose is to promote “economic development.” So again, the fact that you were successful in getting the decision to fire Dr. Buckingham reversed was a great victory for academic freedom.


Rudy Fichtenbaum, President

American Association of University Professors

First I want to thank the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association for inviting me to attend your Academic Freedom Event. I do not consider myself to be an expert on academic freedom. Thus, I am all the more so truly honored that you have asked me to give the keynote address this evening.

I want to begin with the proposition that the overarching threat to academic freedom today stems from the corporatization of higher education. In some respects there is nothing new about corporate control of universities. Upton Sinclair in his self published book The Goose-Step that appeared in 1922 starts by quoting James McKeen Cattell as saying:

That a professor’s salary should depend on the favor of a president, or that he should be dismissed without a hearing by a president with the consent of an absentee board of trustees, is…

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Keynote Address at the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association Academic Freedom Event: Part 2


Rudy Fichtenbaum, President

American Association of University Professors

While cases such as the ones I have been discussing receive lots of public attention, they pale in comparison a number of other threats to academic freedom, mainly the attacks on public sector unions and growing use of faculty who are hired on contingent contracts. In the U.S., it is already the case that the overwhelming majority of faculty are denied the right to unionize. This is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Yeshiva decision, along with the fact that most states do not allow or make it virtually impossible for large numbers of public employees to unionize.

Attacks on public sector unionism along with the growth in the number of faculty working on contingent contracts has been and continues to be at the centerpiece of the corporate agenda to reshape higher education in the U.S. to meet corporate needs and…

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On Trigger Warnings


This report was drafted by a subcommittee of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in August 2014 and has been approved by Committee A.

A current threat to academic freedom in the classroom comes from a demand that teachers provide warnings in advance if assigned material contains anything that might trigger difficult emotional responses for students.  This follows from earlier calls not to offend students’ sensibilities by introducing material that challenges their values and beliefs.  The specific call for “trigger warnings” began in the blogosphere as a caution about graphic descriptions of rape on feminist sites, and has now migrated to university campuses in the form of requirements or proposals that students be alerted to all manner of topics that some believe may deeply offend and even set off a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) response in some individuals.  Oberlin College’s original policy (since tabled to allow for further debate…

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Usual Suspects Saying the Usual Things: Critiquing the Schmidt Report


This week the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a right-leaning group founded by Lynne Cheney (aka Darth Vader’s wife) released a report endorsed by a group of twenty-three trustees, administrators, and a handful of largely conservative faculty from elite institutions, headed by Benno Schmidt, former President of Yale University and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY), entitled “Governance for a New Era.”  The report argues: “There is no doubt that leadership of higher education is out of balance. Trustees should take a more active role in reviewing and benchmarking the work of faculty and administrators and monitoring outcomes.”  With respect to faculty control of curriculum, it contends there is “evidence that self-interest and personal ideologies can drive departmental directions rather than the interest of the students and preparation of citizens.”

Today Inside Higher Education released a podcast in…

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The Koch Brothers’ Gifts to Higher Ed Come with Many Strings Attached


The New York Post recently ran a story by Carl Campanile under this headline: “College Liberals Spurn $10M Gift from the Koch Brothers.” Mitchell Langbert, a faculty member in the Business School at Brooklyn College, had been in extended discussions with the Koch Brothers Foundation about establishing a “financial center” within the Business School.

When the Brooklyn College administration decided to reject the gift, Langbert asserted, “’It’s political correctness. It’s intolerance about anyone who doesn’t toe the left-wing line.’”

I am not going to pretend that Progressives have anything but disdain for what the Koch brothers represent—that Progressives have any less bias toward Far-Right ideologues than those ideologues have toward Progressives. But as Langbert himself must know, there were much deeper issues at play in this discussion and decision than simple political bias.

The Koch brothers, the Walton heirs, and others classifiable as both ultra-wealthy and politically Far Right have…

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Another Professor Punished for Anti-Israel Views–The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….

Eslkevin's Blog

Another Professor Punished for Anti-Israel Views

 by Corey Robin

Until two weeks ago, Steven Salaita was heading to a job at the University of Illinois as a professor of American Indian Studies. He had already resigned from his position at Virginia Tech; everything seemed sewn up. Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois has overturned Salaita’s appointment and rescinded the offer. Because of Israel.

The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….

For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream…

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More Than 275 Scholars Declare They Will Not Engage With University of Illinois

We’re not all sheep.

Eslkevin's Blog

More Than 275 Scholars Declare They Will Not Engage With University of Illinois

by Corey Robin at

In the last 24 hours, sociologists and scholars of composition and rhetoric have organized two new statements of refusal regarding the Steven Salaita affair.

1. The sociology statement reads as follows:

Dear Chancellor Wise:

We are members of Sociology departments from around the world who write, regretfully, to inform you that we will not engage with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign as speakers, or as participants in conferences or other events at Illinois, until you rescind the decision to block Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Many prominent academics have written eloquently about the chilling effect your decision will have on the free expression of dissident ideas by academics; legal scholars have argued that it is…

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New Limits on Financial Aid Tied to Tuition in North Carolina


The Far-Right in North Carolina has received much national attention for passing blatantly anti-progressive legislation–most notably, more restrictive voting laws and dramatic reductions in funding for social safety-net programs. But, beyond the legislation that has generated the greatest controversy across the state and beyond, the Far Right legislature and governor—and the governor’s many appointees—have been pursuing all available opportunities to advance their extremist ideology. And higher education has been impacted in many ways by those efforts.

Most recently, the Far-Right majority on the UNC Board of governors, which oversees the public universities in North Carolina, has placed new limits on the percentage of the revenue generated by tuition that can be allocated financial aid. Institutions will now be able to deveote no more than 15% of their tuition revenue to financial aid.

Of the 17 public universities in North Carolina, six now allocate between 15% and 20% of their tuition…

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AAUP Officers’ Statement on Case of Steven Salaita


Today, Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP president, and Hank Reichman, first vice-president and chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, issued the statement below.

Statement on the Case of Professor Steven G. Salaita

We have read with concern yesterday’s report on that the University of Illinois has apparently withdrawn a job offer to Professor Steven G. Salaita. It appears that this decision came in response to the tone of his controversial comments on Twitter about the Israeli military action in Gaza. Because both Professor Salaita and the university administration have so far declined public comment, a number of facts concerning this case remain unclear. In particular, it is not certain whether the job offer had already been made in writing when Professor Salaita was informed that he would not be hired and hence whether or not Salaita could be considered to have already acquired the rights accruing…

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