Thursday, December 27, 2007

AFT on academic freedom

The American Federation of Teachers has released a major report called Academic Freedom in the 21st-Century College and University: Academic freedom for all faculty and instructional staff. (It's available in full here.) Their definition of the key term is taken from the First Global Colloquium of University Presidents, in 2005:
At its simplest, academic freedom may be defined as the freedom to conduct research, teach, speak, and publish, subject to the norms and standards of scholarly inquiry, without interference or penalty, wherever the search for truth and understanding may lead.
That should sound pretty familiar to us here in Wisconsin. I read the document as a call to arms for all of us. Here's where they throw down the gauntlet:
Today, … the American Federation of Teachers issues this statement out of a deep sense of urgency about the status of academic freedom now and in the future. Increasingly, we see a variety of threats to the practices that support academic freedom. These include:
  • The increasingly vocational focus of higher education;
  • Loss of financial support for colleges and universities;
  • Corporate-style management practices;
  • Political attacks on faculty and instructional staff;
  • The erosion of academic staffing through the loss of full-time tenured positions and the financial and professional mistreatment of contingent faculty members.
That pretty well sums it up. These are all issues here at Wisconsin, of course, and some of them are burning bright right now. But note how it's mostly about money, always with the corporatist political angle lurking in there.

You should read the report and draw your own conclusions.

Image from here.


Anonymous said...

I hate to sound Marxist but we shouldn't blame money itself (really, money and I are good friends but with all my teaching, grading, committee and research commitments, I don't see them much anymore). We should keep the focus on the people controlling the money.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, I'm with you on that. I was using 'money' for those who control it. Not that I wouldn't be happy to blame the Federal Reserve or whoever.