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Academic freedom update

The AAUP has a new video on the consequences of Garcetti v. Ceballos.  If you teach at a public university in the United States, watch this video.  Then distribute it to your colleagues.  Do this or I will come to your house—and you don’t want that.

The .pdf of the full AAUP report is here.  If you’re not up to speed on this stuff yet, now’s the time—the report is smart and useful and instructive and basically terrific.

OK, deep breath.

Yesterday, Sherman Dorn alerted me to the fact that the blogger known as Dean Dad has a, how shall I say, interesting interpretation of the AAUP’s position on Garcetti: because it is now possible, thanks to three lower-court decisions, for administrations to punish faculty for what they say in the course of their professional duties (and these might range from routine committee service to comments in the local newspaper about this or that university policy), it is therefore a good time to get rid of tenure.  Yes, you read that right:

Apparently the AAUP is launching a new campaign in recognition of the rocky judicial climate for its conception of academic freedom. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I agree so strongly that I wonder if it has thought through its position completely.

As regular readers know, I’ve argued for some time that the tenure system is unsustainable and even unethical. I’ve proposed as an alternative a system of long-term renewable contracts with academic freedom stipulated in the contract language. (For the record, I envision an initial contract of three years—consistent with current practice for most tenure-track lines—followed by renewable five-year contracts.) That way, if academic freedom is attacked, a complainant wouldn’t have to rely on an extra-constitutional and undefined legal doctrine; she could bring action as breach of contract. Academic freedom could also be stipulated in institutional policy. To the extent that employee handbooks and/or institutional bylaws are given the force of contract, the objection from ‘expiration’ is rendered moot. (The recent decision that non-renewal is tantamount to termination further buttresses this argument.) Contract law is well-established, so the claim wouldn’t rely on the good graces of any particular justice. What might sound, at first, like a retreat would actually be a significant advance for academic freedom.

Read the whole thing, as they say, and the comments too—especially the comment about how scrapping tenure will lead to an increase in salaries.  I have to go and teach today and make a bunch of statements in the course of my professional duties, as I’ve been doing on my last couple of out-of-town trips (I now serve on the AAUP’s Committee A and I chair the MLA’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities), so I have to keep my response relatively brief.  But for now, I am nominating DD’s post for the coveted Richard Cohen Award for Advanced Wrongheadedness. Five severe and distinguished wrongisms make this post worthy of the honor, in my humble opinion:

(1) The idea that academic freedom will be protected “to the extent that employee handbooks and/or institutional bylaws are given the force of contract.” Here’s the short answer: they’re not.  They are routinely set aside by courts.  The reason the AAUP is advising faculty to revise their handbooks anyway is that in the wake of a series of extraordinarily perverse court decisions, this is the best we can do.  We have to look to written safeguards in internal institutional procedures because the legal climate is so very hostile. We are not looking for better legal ground.  We are looking for matters of professional principle.  From the report’s executive summary:

Based on its review of relevant cases, the subcommittee report reiterates the imperative of making the case for academic freedom at both public and private institutions, not as a matter of law, but as a principle vital to the effective functioning of institutions of higher learning.

Which brings me to (2).

(2) As for the claim that “contract law is well-established, so the claim wouldn’t rely on the good graces of any particular justice”: yes, well, no one could possibly anticipate a situation in which employers set aside contracts.  Which brings me to (3).

(3) “Outside of the elite institutions, tenure is going the way of the typewriter. If the only alternative to tenure is temp gigs, then academic freedom becomes de facto the exclusive province of the elite.  But if tenure can be replaced with a more sustainable system featuring long-term contracts and academic freedom, then we can keep the best elements of it without chaining ourselves to a dying system.” This is some pretty amazing logic at work.  Back in 1970, roughly 70 percent of people teaching in American universities had tenure.  Now, after four decades of scorched-earth adjunctification, during which universities have created about three untenured positions for every tenure-track job, that figure is around 25 percent (check out the DD commenter who blames this on unions.  Come on, people, everyone knows ACORN did it).  That means tenure is now elite, and elitism is bad, so the responsible and egalitarian thing to do is to jettison the system altogether, because, after all, it’s dying.  Which brings me to (4).

(4) Dean Dad assumes throughout the post that the AAUP position is that only the tenured faculty have academic freedom.  This is badly mistaken.  We argue that every single person teaching and researching in a university should have academic freedom, and we’re still working out what this means for graduate researchers and teaching assistants (who work under various degrees of supervision).  We argue that people who are not on the tenure track should nevertheless have academic freedom with regard to teaching, research, and statements made in the course of their professional duties or as public citizens; with regard to their possible termination, they should also have rights of due process, and we’ve even laid out our standards for the appointment and nonreappointment of contingent faculty.  See “Recommended Institutional Regulation 13” (some serious scrolling required).  Which brings me to (5), and I promise you I’ve saved the best for last.

(5) “The accountability built in to a renewable-contract system would go a long way towards defusing the cheap political shots to which higher ed is now routinely subject.” Readers, friends, skeptics, and sworn enemies, I have lain awake all night trying to figure out how to reply to this without snark, and I have failed.  I keep trying to imagine Roger Kimball saying, “I used to get all squicky about queer theory, but now that universities have scrapped tenure, bring on the fabulous challenges to heteronormativity.” Or Daniel Pipes saying, “I used to target anyone who didn’t toe the Likud line, but now that universities have scrapped tenure, let a hundred critiques of Israel bloom.” Or my old friend David Horowitz saying, “I used to have a list of dangerous professors, but now that universities have scrapped tenure, Bill Ayers is just all right with me, whoa yeah.” But alas, I have to admit that I’m just not that imaginative.  I do worry, however, that many deans think this way: if only we got rid of tenure, we’d go a long way toward defusing those cheap shots! Well, sure, tenure is always going to be a target of public ire and resentment, particularly when unemployment is rising, entire company towns are shutting down, and the banksters of Goldman Sachs, together with 25 percent of college professors, are making out like bandits.  But if you really think that abandoning tenure is going to defuse the higher-ed cheap-shot industry, you don’t know who and what you’re dealing with.

Speaking of which, one of the stranger and stupider consequences of Garcetti is that the more you actually know what you’re talking about when you speak or write in the course of your professional duties, the less protection you have.  In other words, lunatics and cranks (and Moloch knows we have our share) have full constitutional protection for their remarks, but well-informed people, not so much.  That’s because Garcetti relied in part on the Pickering precedent (in which Pickering was found to have First Amendment protection for his remarks because his remarks were completely uninformed and implausible); see Robert O’Neil’s explanation of this curious development here.  Transcript:

In the current climate, it seems to me almost any faculty participation that might entail a controversial statement or an outspoken view is potentially at risk.  If the only time a state college or state university professor is really safe, in terms of First Amendment protection, is when talking about something that person is woefully uninformed about, has no expertise, couldn’t possibly be deemed to be within that person’s official duties—and that’s basically where we are now—then it seems to me at least all useful types of faculty participation in university governance are potentially at risk.

So remember, folks: if you’re going to speak out about something at your college or university in the course of your professional duties, first make sure that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Posted by on 11/12 at 08:48 AM
  1. first make sure that you have no idea what you’re talking about

    What a relief—I’m safe, then.

    Posted by  on  11/12  at  10:22 AM
  2. So once we get rid of tenure, then the next step in protecting ourselves against the D-Ho’s of this world is going to be increasing teaching loads to 40 hours a week, since we now clearly only work for 6 hours or so each week? I see where this is going: just make everybody an adjunct and move all research to research institutes, preferably funded by the military. (Humanities need not apply of course, but who needs’em anyway.)

    In somewhat related news, UC Regents are meeting here at UCLA on 11/18 to bury UC as a public university deserving of the name.

    Posted by  on  11/12  at  11:51 AM
  3. Wait, tenured professors don’t have employment contracts?  I didn’t realize that tenure-track positions were administered via oral agreements, and that tenure was granted solely by awarding a laurel and hearty handshake.

    And thank goodness I’m employed by a research institute in an at-will position, instead of by a university.  I’m apparently way ahead of the curve.

    And and wouldn’t it be simpler to just presume that a professor has protection against wrongful termination by the granting of some sort of ... let’s call it “schenure”?  Because even if non-renewal is treated as tantamount to termination, proving wrongful termination is not always trivially easy and expense-free.

    So remember, folks: if you’re going to speak out about something at your college or university in the course of your professional duties, first make sure that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    So, in other words, a dean embraces a system that protects deans.

    Posted by  on  11/12  at  01:49 PM
  4. It’s worth noting that there would be practically no incentive for a university not to break a contract with an “academic freedom” requirement. I’m a bit rusty on my contracts law (it ain’t first semester of law school anymore) but I doubt they’d be on the hook for much more than the remainder of the prof’s salary (contract law is purely compensatory, there’s no punitive aspect to it). Liquidated damages clauses (e.g. “if you break this contract, you are liable for x amount") are not enforceable in most situations.

    Also, a very quick skimming of that Second Circuit opinion that he mentions reveals that it doesn’t help his argument. The court UPHELD the dismissal of the professor’s contract claims; the opinion is about the gender and age discrimination claims, not academic freedom or contract law. It doesn’t say that non-renewal is tantamount to termination for contract purposes (so it definitely doesn’t “buttress” his argument).

    Posted by  on  11/12  at  04:13 PM
  5. You are always welcome at my house, Michael.

    Posted by Dave Maier  on  11/12  at  06:47 PM
  6. I usually enjoy Dean Dad’s insights, but his harping about tenure is very annoying. Not every problem in academia is a result of tenure. His approach reminds me of the saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail. If the only tool that he feels he has to motivate faculty is the threat of being fired which he believes is the one key factor in tenure, I’d say that attitude, itself, is part of his problem.

    Posted by Janice  on  11/12  at  07:44 PM
  7. Contract law is well-established, so the claim wouldn’t rely on the good graces of any particular justice.

    Dean Dad’s veiled (okay, outright) union bashing is an echo of so many of those bent on subjugating and dominating labor in every walk of life. If labor contract law was so clearly well-established, the daily reporting by the NLRB wouldn’t be needed (and local state boards issue three times more).  The efforts of the GOP to stop the Franken Amendment from passing, further exhibits these attacks on labor and contract law. Contract law has been designed to protect employers, through restriction of access of employees to remedies of complaints and so forth.  Can you even begin to imagine the sheer volume of mediation and arbitration actions required to maintain academic freedom in an environment of individual contracts for academic services? 

    Academic administrations want greater authority over their “employees” to sanction and prohibit behaviors that would possibly threaten the financial wellbeing of their domain.  The academic freedom of tenured faculty (viewed as a major threat) offers, through associations and unions, academic freedom to non-tenured and adjunct faculty.  Tenure protects freedom.

    Posted by  on  11/12  at  11:08 PM
  8. Also, a very quick skimming of that Second Circuit opinion that he mentions reveals that it doesn’t help his argument. The court UPHELD the dismissal of the professor’s contract claims; the opinion is about the gender and age discrimination claims, not academic freedom or contract law. It doesn’t say that non-renewal is tantamount to termination for contract purposes (so it definitely doesn’t “buttress” his argument).

    Wait, so you’re saying that Dean Dad is misreading something badly so as to claim that it supports his “contracts in place of tenure” position when it actually doesn’t?  Run that by me again, because it sounds unpossible.

    And you know, the AAUP does say there’s a place for multiyear contracts for NTT faculty.  It’s all there in RIR 13.  We just don’t believe in gutting the tenure system so as to make academic employment more secure and legally grounded, because that makes no sense atall.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/13  at  09:30 AM
  9. Definitely agree that Dean Dad’s ‘contracts would take care of academic freedom problems’ b.s. is, well, b.s.

    That said, I really would like to actually have a contract that specified little things like my actual job responsibilities.  You know, what my teaching load is, that kind of thing. 

    Like a lot of faculty, my “contract” consists of a one-page letter that lists my salary and job title.  And nothing contractual even purports to prevent my institution from arbitrarily changing the responsibilities that go along with my job title.

    Posted by  on  11/13  at  11:50 AM
  10. I’m confused.  Both you and DD seem to think that (as you put it) “people who are not on the tenure track should nevertheless have academic freedom”. (And by that I mean you both agree on the necessity of academic freedom in general, as well as its applicability to non-tenured staff) Is there some disagreement on this point that I don’t understand?

    In his post, DD argues from there that if we (as we should) establish a mechanism for academic freedom that is independent of tenure, then there is one less reason for keeping tenure.  And DD reiterates his opinion that an academic system without tenure would be better for many reasons.

    Now, you (rightly) point out that removing tenure won’t eliminate political attacks on academics, but that’s really an aside, and not central to DD’s argument.  But other than that, your post seems to be more or less calling DD a poopy-head for criticising tenure, as I don’t see any actual counterarguments in your post against his reasoning, or in favor of tenure.  And I think that kind of attitude towards someone who clearly cares deeply about education and struggles daily with how to improve it (or hurt it least) is very helpful.

    [For the record I’m neither an academic or academy manager]

    Posted by  on  11/13  at  12:45 PM
  11. But other than that, your post seems to be more or less calling DD a poopy-head for criticising tenure, as I don’t see any actual counterarguments in your post against his reasoning, or in favor of tenure.

    No, Q, that’s not quite right—and not just about the “poopy-head” part, which (as far as I can see) does not exist in my post.  DD can criticize tenure all he likes, and I understand why he does.  What he can’t do—at least according to the rules of logic and argument by which we ordinarily operate—is read the AAUP’s report on Garcetti as an implicit, though unwitting, endorsement of his belief that academic freedom would be more decisively secured through contracts than through tenure.

    And I presume you meant to say that my attitude is not very helpful in your final sentence?  Though I note that it is an attitude that you ascribe to me on the basis of your belief that I have more or less called DD a poopy-head, which, by commodius vicus of recirculation, leads back to the paragraph above.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/13  at  03:46 PM
  12. by commodius vicus of recirculation

    Um, you do realize that commodius vicus is Latin slang for “poopy-head,” right?  (Technically, “vicious commode,” but the colloquial meaning is close enough.)

    Anyway, I’m still missing how eliminating the only current category of professorial employment that at all guarantees academic freedom will lead to an expansion of same, especially when it shifts the burden of proof from the more powerful to the less powerful.  Replacing tenure with wrongful termination lawsuits turns academic freedom into how much money someone can afford to spend on lawyers.  And given the non-zero overlap between those who want to strip professors of job security and those who espouse “tort reform,” good luck with keeping contract law sacrosanct* if it becomes the sole shield of those who engage in liberal indoctrination.

    And perhaps we can ask David Graeber how well that whole “non-renewal is tantamount to termination” line works in blatantly politicized cases.

    *As much as it ever is when it comes to rank-and-file workers, of course.  Ask unionized auto employees about “sacrosanct” sometime.

    Posted by  on  11/13  at  05:03 PM
  13. Now that i am thinking a bit more clearly, than i was previously when DD’s comments reminded me of the Gov. Reagan daze that was cast over the UC Board of Regents (among his many attacks, eliminating tenure was a biggy), I would like to follow up on mds’ thoughts. 

    Clearly, a professor with tenure can still be terminated for egregious behaviors.  The burden is on the administration to prove that the acts that might lead to that termination were factually evidenced and warranted the firing.  This is well and good.  The recent cases suggest that the scope of egregious behaviors has expanded into realms that are more abstract and indeed threaten academic freedom directly.  Regardless of the allegedly great salaries paid to full professors, a typical litigated termination challenge costs in the range of $100k to $300k (mediation, arbitration, filing of suit, discovery, et al).  Without the support of associations or unions, individual professors would be forced to borrow against homes, and so forth, just to begin to fight to keep their jobs.  Now DD thinks that this should happen much more often and regularly (well he wishes it wouldn’t since “contract law is well-established). 

    Tenure is a piece of the collective bargaining agreement, that extends down from universities into k-12 environments.  If tenure is abandoned in exchange for expensively litigated case-by-case challenges on academic freedom, the chilling effect of such a path extends to tens upon tens of thousands of other educators (personally, from my perspective, i think that is part of the underlying intent).

    Posted by  on  11/13  at  10:19 PM
  14. May the lawyer of this group throw his ten cents in (Inflation of comments makes it five times two cents)?

    I blogged on this over at MF blog in 2006 when the decision was handed down.  It was a 5-4 decision and the majority opinion was a real mess--and yes, I was rambling in the blog post somewhat myself...But hell, I have a day job, unlike the Justices who had the actual job of writing a coherent opinion, and failed.

    The mess was based upon the fact that Ceballos did not want to finish the grievance procedure for civil servants in California, and sadly, the Supreme Court Justices (and the law clerks who write so much of their opinions) did not really understand that (Though props to Justice Breyer for mentioning civil service grievance boards and arbitrations and the like late in his dissenting opinion).

    The civil servant, Ceballos, lost in the internal part of his grievance procedure, and instead of filing a petition for writ of mandate in the Superior Court (trial court level) in California, which is the next step and allows the Superior Court to review the internal procedure for unfairness and other defects, Ceballos filed a federal court case claiming his First Amendment rights were being abridged. 

    But...it was still an employment law case for retaliation and discrimination, and that engendered confusion among the majority of five, though Souter, the best state court mind on the US Supreme Court at the time, understood the issue best.

    Much of Ceballos’ bitch against his superiors was “inside baseball,” meaning it was really not a First Amendment issue.  The whole bit about the illegal warrant was that the evidence Ceballos wrote about in the one case was in fact heard in open court, with Ceballos testifying in that case against the warrant.  The judge, ironically, found the warrant was not pretty, but still passed constitutional muster.  The DA, however, was embarrassed that its warrant officer sided too openly with the defense in the case and eventually started a retaliation campaign against Ceballos (so he alleged).

    The only thing Ceballos did that truly implicated the First Amendment was his speaking out in a speech at a Mexican-American group gathering.  That was part of the basis of his retaliation claim, too, but was a public speech on a public topic of how people like him are wrongly ostracized in the village of DAs and law enforcement.  That speech too could have easily been made an issue for a judge to decide in the Superior Court on the writ of mandate proceeding, so why did Ceballos go through the federal court?

    The answer is that Ceballos wanted a jury trial and the writ of mandate procedure for civil servants is a judge trial only.  Yes, we may not like it (I don’t) that civil servants have no right to a jury trial, but let’s recall that, in most places, especially California, they have more protections than private sector employees who lack both unions and civil service protection (and people like Ceballos had both). 

    Still, it is good the AAUP is upset about the decision.  However, they should, in addition to their other arguments, attack the majority opinion in Ceballos by understanding how each state’s civil service procedures work in a given case, as that will allow the courts to undo the confusion and crabbiness engendered by the Ceballos decision.  What I mean is that it gives courts a chance to distinguish the facts and therefore the holding of Ceballos into oblivion...until one day, the US Supreme Court will say, “Oh, um, Garcetti v. Ceballos?  We disapprove it as it has been too often distinguished and narrowed already.”

    Bottom line:  The majority in Ceballos wanted a brighter line drawn between “citizen” and “public employee” than in the better reasoned Pickering from the late 1960s.  And ironically, the majority in Ceballos wound up muddying the method of analysis that now is starting to undermine academic freedom--even though the majority specifically warned against messing with academic freedom near the end of its opinion.  Again, better to distinguish Ceballos on the facts of each case, either saying to push the case back into the civil service grievance procedure, or if there are egregious facts of retaliation, to say, “Unlike Ceballos, there are egregious facts of retaliation...” and say what those are.  It can be done.

    Oh, and Michael, you are absolutely right about contract law and the Dean Dad is woefully ignorant.  Contract law is a slim reed and often not a good method of challenging employer decisions, unless you are an executive in a private sector company with a real honest to goodness filled with goodies contract.

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  11/14  at  01:53 AM
  15. Rambling again.  I should say Souter understood the Pickering case the best.  Breyer understood the internal grievance procedures for civil servants the best.  Sigh.

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  11/14  at  01:55 AM
  16. Thanks, Mitchell!  This is beyond great.  One small and very tiny quibble:  you say the majority in Ceballos wound up muddying the method of analysis that now is starting to undermine academic freedom--even though the majority specifically warned against messing with academic freedom near the end of its opinion.  But Kennedy’s majority opinion said this:

    There is some argument that expression related to academic scholarship or classroom instruction implicates additional constitutional interests that are not fully accounted for by this Court’s customary employee-speech jurisprudence. We need not, and for that reason do not, decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching.

    I don’t read that as “don’t mess with academic freedom,” as Souter said in his dissent ("This ostensible domain beyond the pale of the First Amendment is spacious enough to include even the teaching of a public university professor, and I have to hope that today’s majority does not mean to imperil First Amendment protection of academic freedom in public colleges and universities, whose teachers necessarily speak and write ‘pursuant to official duties.’") I read it as saying, “come right on in—the door’s wide open.” And the Hong, Renken, and Gorum courts have read it that way too.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/14  at  11:08 AM
  17. I see your point.  I saw it as the compromise that let Kennedy join as the fifth vote, and that Kennedy was making a nod to Souter.  Things like this happen all the time in the US Supremes.

    It is horrible that the Hong, Renken and Gorum cases came down as they did.  I think that is why the AAUP needs to add the
    “procedural distinguishing of facts” model to its arsenal. 

    If it makes you feel better, I had sounded the alarm about the US Supreme Court “sovereignty” decisions as a clear attack on the 14th Amendment, which they were.  That was back in 1998 and 1999, and I remember Lani Guinier telling me I was essentially paranoid, until the next decision came down--and she and other more liberal minded folks began to get nervous.

    But then O’Connor and Kennedy finally blinked as they began to figure out where Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas were going, which was to return us to a Gilded Age jurisprudence of holding economic legislation unconstitutional the way Grassley says health insurance mandates are unconstitutional.  It was about a five year process.  The problem, of course, is that Alito replaced O’Connor, and so it is up to Kennedy to show he did not mean to screw with academic freedom.

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  11/14  at  01:08 PM
  18. Totally off topic, but I had to comment somewhere on the Pens scoring with 0.4 secs left to tie Boston and then dominate OT to win 6-5 90 seconds in. And it wasn’t a “buzzing the net” 0.4 seconds score. With 10 left they were hopelessly battling for it deep in their zone, got an unlikely breakout at 4 seconds aided by a broken stick and scored on a long shot (Malkin to Guerin) on the ensuing rush. About the most excitingly unlikely end of regulation play I’ve ever seen. OK back to your regularly scheduled debate on matters of import. (Oh and P’burgh Panthers currently having their way with the Notre Dame Fighting Theocrats.)

    Posted by  on  11/14  at  11:24 PM
  19. This reads so much like the famous “First they came for the _____(fill in the blank) but I didn’t do anything....blah blah blah....but then they came for me and I was SOL” quote.

    Tenured faculty has not given SHIT ONE about adjunct faculty for quite some time, as a collective (I know individuals have and I am not singling anyone out for my ire) and now, tenured faculty are at a low of 25% and what do you know, there is no one to fight with them to maintain academic freedom. My 52 year old PhD College Professor husband, an Adjunct, is never even sure of employment from semester to semester, after decades of insanely glowing reviews of his teaching performance. Is his Department Head losing any sleep over it? Nah. WHen a full time position comes open, to they even glance at the teachers who have given them so much? Nah. Cheaper to hire a young person, because they are less likely to need healthcare. Adjuncts often get NO benefits (we don’t), and eventually you reach a point where your health insurance premiums on the private market outstrip your salary.

    In my mind, it seems that Tenured faculty have ignored the plight of adjuncts as long as their own perks were covered: high salaries, job security, health insurance, retirement. ANd Screw the Adjuncts who actually teach. Now you might be looking at joining the adjuncts in UnfairnessLand.

    Understandably I am bitter....and that doesn’t solve anything. I would LIKE to see tenure EXPANDED and Full Professorships conferred on Adjuncts, because after all, they are doing the work of professors. In fact I am pretty sure everyone on this thread would like to see academic freedom and job security and healthcare offered to all college professors.

    But you can see what I am saying I hope: “Academia” ignored the plight of the Adjuncts, and now Faculty doesn’t have enough power to collectively bargain.....because the adjuncts can’t join you in the fight. Their semester-to-semester assignments grant them no academic freedom at all, and they have to keep their heads down if they don’t want to flip burgers.

    Posted by OVERLADY  on  11/15  at  01:54 AM
  20. “Academia” ignored the plight of the Adjuncts

    Quite true.  Indeed, I have been saying this for the past 15 years.  Most recently, from What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts:

    Two-thirds of us have no form of job security whatsoever; your average university is replete with “adjuncts,” “instructors,” “lecturers,” “visiting teaching associates,” and (less euphemistically) “fixed-term appointees” who teach four or five courses per term and who simply do not have the academic freedom promised in the 1940 Statement of Principles of the American Association of University Professors.  They can be challenged, harassed, and reported to the press or to the legislature by any student or administrator who has the will and the resources to pursue them, and they know that their reappointment depends on (a) the annual department budget, (b) their institution’s enrollment figures, which may or may not have an effect on (a), and/or (c) the quality of their student evaluations from the previous semester.

    The thing is, of course, that scrapping tenure actually won’t improve the lives of adjuncts.  But yes, a little more awareness and activism from the tenured faculty, on behalf of contingent faculty, would be nice.  Because the water’s getting awfully hot and that frog is just about boiled.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/15  at  09:23 AM
  21. Thank you Michael, for not calling me a “Poopy-Head!”
    I agree, ending the tenure system is not the answer to anything. EXPANDING it is the answer.

    I would argue that “A little more awareness and activism” is not enough though. I think A LOT MORE AWARENESS AND ACTIVISM would be better.

    If everyone in only fighting for themselves, they lose. That is why it is called COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. Tenured Faculty have done a Piss-poor job since the 1970’s of protecting the rights of ALL FACULTY. In the University system, the Professors are THE TALENT. Without them, the University is an empty building. But the tenured faculty has gotten themselves behind the 8 ball by, yes, being elitist and not insisting that the more poorly paid professors get to join the club. Now the club is too small to fight this.

    I think the maintenance of Academic Freedom is TANTAMOUNT, and it’s loss will be IRREVOCABLE! But to win this battle you are going to need more troops.

    Posted by OVERLADY  on  11/15  at  04:41 PM
  22. I would argue that “A little more awareness and activism” is not enough though. I think A LOT MORE AWARENESS AND ACTIVISM would be better.

    Ah, you see, sometimes I have a gift for understatement.  Anyway, you should be reading Marc Bousquet—he’s all over this question, much more comprehensively than I am.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/15  at  06:22 PM
  23. Caveat: IANAL.

    It seems to me that another pernicious result of Garcetti v. Ceballos is that teachers can be subject to institutional retaliation if they try to raise issues about the treatment of disabled students: there’s no 1st amendment protection, correct? If they complain internally that the school is shortchanging or mistreating a kid with, oh, say, Down syndrome, the school can eliminate their contract.

    Fortunately, at least on the Left Coast, the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Barker v. Riverside seems to allow for ADA and section 504 retaliation claims.

    Posted by  on  11/16  at  01:42 PM
  24. Hi Mitchell!
    This is an excellent article. I usually don’t post on blogs but ya forced me to, great info.. excellent! I still find myself in a quandary. In countries without democratic traditions, academic freedom may be unreliably granted and unevenly distributed. Academic freedom isn’t in the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Posted by adaptateur  on  12/07  at  01:50 AM





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