November 29, 2005

Academic-freedom grumps

The world is all out of sorts. FIRE president David French advising the Pennsylvania House Select Committee on Haranguing Higher Ed Academic Freedom in Higher Education is strange enough. Then catch this from Joan Wallach Scott's review of Donald Downs' Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus and FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus:

[I]n the classroom, academic freedom rests on the notion of faculty expertise, ... It derives from values that attach to the distinctive role of the professional scholar, a member of a self-regulating corporate body whose job it is to certify that expertise. Academic freedom pertains to scholars as professionals, not individuals... Students do not have this kind of academic freedom and they ought not to be encouraged to believe that they do. [Emphasis added.]

This in the same issue of Academe where Joseph Heathcott explained the inappropriateness of the guild analogy for graduate training. Scott's been the head of AAUP's Committee A, doing good work, and she's allowed the occasional mistake. This one's a doozy. You think that maybe we'd realize that to the extent that academic freedom is a special form of free speech for individuals, it inheres in the institutional circumstances, not entirely in the person's characteristics. (If I quit my job and started working for a corporation, would I have special speech rights compared with my neighbor just because I have a Ph.D.?) Yes, faculty have authority over the class in important ways, but, sheesh, this is an inapt and particularly foolish bit of phrasing.

Then there's the strange case of John Daly, the Warren Community College adjunct faculty who insulted a student at the institution in an e-mail exchange about the Iraq war and then was pressured to resign because his statement was politically incorrect, rude, and embarrassing to the college and, in addition, he's an adjunct and thus vulnerable. It's hard to pick a starting point for criticism—there are so many from which to choose. Seventy wrongs still don't make a right.

I turn around (okay, stop writing entries on academic freedom for a few months), and the world goes to pieces. What's wrong with you guys?

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Posted in Academic freedom on November 29, 2005 9:07 PM |