FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Begging the Question About Academic Freedom

David Lindorff’s column, “What Academic Freedom?” begs to be addressed, particularly the assertion that “freedom of academic expression on American university campuses is already virtually dead.” Because, it isn’t, at least not entirely.

While it is true that universities increasingly depend upon contract or adjunct hiring, and job security can be a fictional state of being, it is not necessarily the case that, as he says, “Clearly a person who has no job security has no freedom of expression.”

While teaching at that bastion of progressivism, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City from 2002-04, I helped organize the Wasatch Coalition for Peace & Justice, a coalition of over 25 city and state-wide groups opposed to the Iraq invasion, and the Campus Committee for Peace & Justice, a University-wide group composed of faculty, staff, and students also opposed to the invasion. In addition, I participated in and served as a spokesperson for Occupation NO!: Peace & Justice for Palestine, and the Salt Lake City Co-Op Miner’s Solidarity Support Committee. I was often in both Salt Lake City newspapers as well as local TV and radio. I wrote letters to the editor and opinion pieces to register a strident and unpopular opinion of the invasion, the skewed media representation of the Palestinian’s, an occupied people, as somehow the bad guys, and the injustice perpetrated upon immigrant miner workers seeking Union representation (in an unapologetic Right to Work state) by a politically powerful polygamous family in Utah. This political activity was not merely confined to the written word; no, we held numerous conferences, rallies, and protests with big name people (Phyllis Bennis, Robert Jensen, Naim Ateek, to name a few), and we were organizing like crazy. I heard, however, nary a word of protest from my colleagues, department, nor the University higher ups. In fact, I was applauded for my community involvement, and supported by my department when my “Communities & Organizations in Social Work” class of graduate students used the entire semester to work to help the exploited immigrant mine workers get what they wanted: a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that they had the right to vote for United Mine Workers of America representation AND back pay from striking. And, guess what? The NLRB did indeed rule in their favor. We made waves, and I am very proud of the part I (and my students) played.

I did all of this while under the assistant-professor-tenure-track gun. I am no longer at the University of Utah because I came back home to Texas. But, last semester I taught at Texas State University as adjunct professor (qualified for the next five years), that despised and feared, non-secure position Lindorff mentions. Again, I taught graduate social work students in “Communities and Organizations in Social Work”, and, again, devoted the entire semester to a real live issue: Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Calling ourselves CHIP in for Children, we worked with the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas to help convince the Texas Legislature to see to the health care needs of the thousands of Texas children who were either kicked off the program or found ineligible to participate due to requirement changes and loss of funding. We developed fact sheets, a PowerPoint presentation, filled out 600 “Restore CHIP” postcards, wrote ‘letters to the editor’, and visited with our Texas Legislative representatives to ascertain support. A number of bills have been filed already to restore funding and return to realistic and fair eligibility requirements. I know that we shared in making an impact.

All this experience in an university setting brings the realization that people who pursue a career in academia are stuck. What I mean is that when one goes through a PhD program one is being set up for continuing on that path, come what may. Once attaining that exalted level of education, it becomes a slippery slope to a job other than at a University. It’s almost as if one is tainted and not fit to serve the ‘real’ world. People who go into academia, especially on the tenure track, are forced to write volumes and volumes for obscure journals and books that no one but other academicians and students are required to read. People like Ward Churchill, who has always been outspoken and frankly critical of US foreign and domestic policy and who wrote that stuff three years ago, write with the intention of attracting attention; otherwise, what’s the point?

I believe he’s being singled out largely because he’s an Indian, or at least an Indian advocate with an affiliation to the radical AIM (American Indian Movement). Perhaps, that’s what’s so special about the Ward Churchill affair.

More articles by:
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail