Category Archives: The Corporate University

Faculty members at South Asian University suspended for supporting student rights.

Four faculty members at South Asian University (New Delhi, India)  have been suspended pending investigation for asking the university not to call police inside the campus while student protests were going on and to resolve matters amicably.

Faculty also asked administration to withdraw punishment meted to students because due process of rules and regulations were not followed.  Ravi Kumar, one of the suspended professors said, “This is unprecedented in the academic history where four faculty members have been suspended for suggesting measures in a constructive spirit.”

Brief chronology of incidents at South Asian University (SAU), New Delhi

  1. On October 14, 2022, faculty members wrote to the university administration against the act of calling police into the campus to disperse protesting students and to resolve internal issues.
  1. On November 4, 2022, the university administration issued office orders announcing expulsion, rustication or suspension of 5 students. On November 5, 2022, several faculty members wrote an email to the university community expressing their deep concern regarding these arbitrary actions of the university administration that were taken without following any due process and in gross violation of rules, regulations, and bye-laws, and were in contravention of principles of natural justice.
  1. Students began a mass indefinite hunger strike from November 7, 2022. Quite a few students had to be admitted to hospital on emergency basis to revive their physical condition. One of the five students who were expelled/rusticated/suspended, Ammar Ahmad (MA Sociology, Ist semester), collapsed on the night of November 22, 2022 and had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital. Till date Ammar’s speech remains severely affected, he cannot walk on his own, and remains fully dependent on care-givers for his daily functioning.
  1. On December 30, 2022, five faculty members received notices from the university administration asking them to respond to several charges, including: writing letters to the university community regarding certain administrative decisions in relation to the student protests (as noted above in points 1 and 2 above). The faculty members include: Dr. Snehashish Bhattacharya (Faculty of Economics), Dr. Srinivas Burra (Faculty of Legal Studies), Irfanullah Farooqi (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences), and Dr. Ravi Kumar (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences). These faculty members individually responded to the notice on January 16, 2023.
  1. The four faculty members were called to appear before a Fact Finding Committee (FFC) on Friday, May 19, 2023 for an interaction. During the interaction, the faculty members were asked to provide answers to between 132 and 246 questions in writing by the end of the working day, using pen and paper and sitting in front of the committee members. They were told that their responses might be used as evidence to decide on further proceedings against them. The questions included fresh (though unsubstantiated) allegations and accusations that were not part of the communication from the administration dated December 30, 2022, or the responses submitted on January 16, 2023.
  1. The four faculty members submitted a written request to the committee to send the questions electronically and to provide more time too. They also wrote to the Acting President on May 25, 2023, regarding this issue and seeking appointment. However, they have not heard back from the committee or from the Acting President yet in this regard.
  1. On June 16, 2023, office orders were issued placing the four faculty members under suspension with immediate effect, stating that “there are allegations of misconduct” and violation of the code of conduct of the University, “which need to be investigated.” The faculty members have been directed not to leave station without permission, vacate their offices, return their office computers and identity cards, and register their attendance on all working days in the offices of their respective deans.
  1. The faculty members responded to the Acting President in writing on June 19, 2023, terming the actions patently illegal as they have been taken in contravention of the rules and regulations of the university. They have called upon him to withdraw the orders at the earliest.

Action requested

The suspension of the faculty members should be revoked as it is a violation of the university rules, regulations and byelaws. The faculty members have been only requesting that the university to resolve matters within university and amicably.

*****

Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association
New Delhi-110067

JNUTA Statement on arbitrary suspension of four faculty at South Asian University

The JNUTA strongly condemns the arbitrary suspension of four faculty by the South Asian University administration. The JNUTA sees this act as unacceptable, unjust, and an attempt to intimidate and spread fear among the teaching community.

The suspension notice issued to the faculty by the SAU administration on 16.06.2023 came after a spate of humiliation of the four faculty members by the Fact Finding Committee that on May 19, 2023, asked them to provide handwritten answers to over a hundred questions sitting in front of the committee members. The faculty raised objections to this process and wrote to the FFC and the SAU administration, but they received no reply. On the contrary, they were served with suspension orders that justified it by accusing the faculty of ‘inciting and leading students and outsiders’, and ‘anti-social acts’, among other things; without following due process of investigation. This illegal and unacceptable suspension notice has directed them not to leave the station without permission, vacate their offices, return their office computers and identity cards, and register their attendance on all working days in the offices of their respective deans.

The JNUTA strongly condemns this unprecedented harassment, coercion, and intimidation of the SAU faculty by the administration. There are several news reports that the University served notices and expelled/suspended/rusticated several students protesting against the reduction of monthly stipends without following the due process. Several faculty in SAU have also raised their concerns regarding the arbitrary actions of the university administration against the students. These notices of expulsion and rustication have put the students under tremendous stress, both mentally and physically.

The suspension order served to four faculty members by the SAU administration is an attempt to intimidate and silence the faculty and the students who raise their voice against the arbitrary and authoritarian actions of the administration. The JNUTA stands in complete solidarity with the faculty of SAU in defending their rights to speak truth to power. It also stands in support of the students of the SAU who have been protesting against the gross act of injustice of the SAU administration. The JNUTA demands that the suspension orders of SAU faculty and rustication/expulsion order of SAU students be immediately revoked and the administration start a dialogue to discuss the demands for an agreeable resolution at the earliest.

Sd/-

D K Lobiyal                                                                                                        Avinash Kumar

President, JNUTA                                                                                       Secretary, JNUTA

 

*****

Janhastakshep: a campaign against fascist designs
Press release
24 June, 2023

Contact: drvikasbajpai@gmail.com; (M): 9717820427

Subject: Suspension of four faculty members at South Asian University, an extension of the continuing attacks on institutions of higher learning.

Janhastakshep unequivocally condemns the suspension of four faculty members – Dr Snehashish Bhattacharya (Faculty of Economics), Dr Srinivas Burra (Faculty of Legal Studies), Dr Irfanullah Farooqi (Department of Sociology) and Dr Ravi Kumar, also of the department of Sociology, at New Delhi’s South Asian University by the university administration and demands unconditional revocation of the suspension orders of all suspended faculty members with immediate effect.

The events leading up to the suspension, the manner of suspension and the subsequent conduct of the ‘Fact Finding Committee’ constituted by the university to conduct a sort of inquiry against the suspended faculty members reek of utterly cavalier attitude calculated to please the powers that be in the political circumstances obtaining in the country as of date.

The present suspension of faculty members is rooted in the events related to the agitation by the university’s students in November last on their legitimate democratic demands impacting on their immediate wellbeing. That agitation was handled with a heavy hand by the university authorities resulting in rustication and expulsion of the students. It led to serious consequences to the health of one student Ammar Ahmad and later to another Phd scholar Apoorva in the Faculty of Legal Studies.

The suspended faculty members were first handed notices on 30 December 2022 on charges such as – writing letters to university community questioning certain administrative decisions in relation to the student protests; instigating students to protest and association with a “Marxist” study circle among other allegations. In levelling these charges against the faculty, those sitting in top administrative positions at the University have exhibited regrettable lack of comprehension of a university’s function, the nature of the learning / teaching process and the responsibilities of the students, teachers and administration at institutions of higher learning towards each other.

No education, let alone new knowledge generation can be transacted if the students are not supported by their teachers and the administration in availing of amenities, including financial support, that facilitate their endeavors in this direction. A teacher and more so the administration shall be failing in their duty if such support and understanding were to be substituted with a ‘coercive disciplinary’ approach which unfortunately has been the dominant trend forced upon all manner of publicly funded institutions of higher learning in the country in last 9 years. It is nothing but a poor parody that the suspended faculty members have been accused of associating / encouraging a ‘Marxist Study Circle’ in a university space that is supposed to lend itself to a free contestation of ideas. This certainly sits at odds with the eulogy of ‘Indian Democracy’ proffered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington D C.

Even as Janhastakshep calls upon the different bodies of academicians and intellectuals at large to support the faculty and students of SAU in this hour of need, we also appeal that this suspension of faculty members should be seen as part of the larger thrust by the Modi led government to further curb the space for ideas which militate for Democratization of society, challenge authoritarianism, uphold economic and social justice. These suspensions are part of the efforts to terrorize and stultify the intelligentsia into submission.

Apart from revoking the suspension of the faculty members and continuing rustication of the students, the bunch of ‘Actors’ (Acting President, Acting Vice-President and Acting Registrar) complicit in ‘over-acting’, who are presently ruling the roost at SAU should be replaced with academics of repute and integrity capable of steering the university towards achieving its cherished goals.

– sd –

(Dr Vikas Bajpai)                                                                                    (Anil Dubey)

Convener                                                                                              Co-convener

Prof JNU                                                                                            Senior journalist

*****

Links to some of the press coverage:

#CFP Workplace Special Issue: Third Space Academic Labor

Workplace journal logo

#CFP Workplace Special Issue: Third Space Academic Labor

Guest Editor: Aaron Stoller, Colorado College

You are invited to submit proposals for a special issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor focusing on Third Space labor in higher education. Despite most colleges and universities’ equity and inclusion commitments, labor in higher education is organized, valued, and supported along a false and exclusionary dichotomy. On one side, the “academic” domain — occupied by faculty — is the site of expertise, critical nuance, and knowledge production. On the other, the “non-academic” domain — occupied by staff — is the site of non-intellectual and largely replaceable managerial activity. This labor binary underpins most aspects of university life, radiating into a culture of exclusion regarding professional support systems, agency in governance structures, labor contracts, and policy environments.

Although this dichotomy pervades almost all college campuses, the nature of academic labor is far more complex (Stoller, 2021). Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, colleges and universities have increasingly depended upon what Whitchurch terms Third Space academic labor (Whitchurch, 2013).

Working through problems of division and exploitation between so-called First and Third Worlds, Bhabha (1990; 2004) introduced the concept of Third Space as a creative, disruptive space of cultural production. Following Bhabha, in social theory Third Space has been used to resolve a range of binaries through the conceptualization of identities that trouble conventional ways of being and behaving. Scholars have used Third Space to examine disability, race, gender, and sexuality, where fluid identities disrupt rigid social categorizations and the cultural hierarchies that inevitably follow. Third Space identities are risky and dangerous because they span and complicate defined cultural categories. They are also spaces of creativity and innovation that open new cultural possibilities (Soja and Hooper, 1993).

Whitchurch uses Third Space to identify a non-binary social class within higher education: emerging groups of professionals who disrupt the false distinction between “academic” and “non-academic.” Third Space professionals work in diverse areas of the institution, such as academic advising, writing programs and centers, quantitative reasoning centers, honors programs, first-year experience and transitions programs, women’s and LGBTQ centers, accessibility resources, and teaching and learning centers among others.

By spanning, interweaving, and disrupting traditional notions of academic labor, Third Space professionals bring tremendous value to their institutions and students. They hold deep academic expertise in teaching and learning, increasing the university’s capacity for immersive and engaged pedagogies (Ho, 2000; Gibbs and Coffey, 2004). They also support the DEI missions of colleges and universities. Almost all Third Space professions developed in response to traditional faculty being unable or unwilling to serve students from marginalized, minoritized, and under-resourced backgrounds (Astin, 1971; Boquet, 1999; Carino, 1996; Groark and McCall, 2018). Because of their organizational positionality and academic expertise, they uniquely understand the student learning experience, and they are positioned to advocate for policy, structural, or curricular changes needed to create more equitable learning environments. Third Space professionals work across departmental lines and can identify and develop opportunities for cross-campus partnerships and interdisciplinary collaborations (Bickford & Whisnant, 2010). They create new forms of scholarship (Eatman, 2012, 2014) and have pluralistic forms of scholarly impact (Arguinis, Shapiro, Antonacopoulou, & Cummings, 2014). They advance multiple university goals, often using scholarly approaches to improve a campus’s understanding of an issue and use their knowledge to develop praxis-based scholarship that shapes national and international change movements (Janke, 2019). Because they have advanced degrees and often teach and conduct research, they also enhance the college’s portfolio and can enrich its curriculum.

Like other non-binary identities, Third Space professionals fall outside normative social categories and therefore face interpersonal, cultural, and structural challenges specific to their work and professional identities. Their work is consistently miscategorized within the academy’s false labor binary, resulting in it being reduced to a “mere” administrative activity (Stefani & Matthew, 2002; Green & Little, 2017), or an “illegitimate” form of scholarship (Rowland et al., 1998; Harland & Staniforth, 2003). Faculty often frame Third Space professional contributions in oppositional (rather than complementary) terms (Handal, 2008). Because they are coded as “non-academic” and not tied to “home” departments, their expertise is rendered invisible in the epistemic economy of the university (Solomon et al., 2006). They rarely have access to institutional support structures for their academic work (e.g., teaching, research, grants, and fellowships), although their contracts often include these activities as part of their professional duties (Bickford and Whisnant, 2010). Third Space professionals are often barred from receiving institutional recognition, such as institutional designations, named professorships, and teaching and research awards, simply because of their class category (Post, Ward, Longo, & Saltmarsh, 2016). Despite their academic expertise and connection to the teaching and research mission of the university, they are systematically excluded from university governance structures (Bessette, 2020a). They also have no clear pathways for professional growth (Kim, 2020; Bessette, 2020b) and yet are often criticized for “abandoning” their institutions for professional gain. Because their labor often performs a “helping” function, it is often coded as “feminine” and devalued as a result (Tipper, 1999; Leit et al., 2007; Bernhagen & Gravett, 2017). Conversely, because traditional academic labor is culturally assumed to be more desired and desirable, Third Space professionals are often coded as “failed” academics (Whitchurch, 2015, p. 86).

This cultural denigration of their labor means they are frequently the subject of bullying and micro- aggressions by traditional faculty, but because faculty enjoy the protections of tenure there is no possibility of accountability for workplace abuses suffered by Third Space professionals (Henderson, 2005; Perry, 2020).

This issue seeks articles that identify and conceptualize problems cutting across the diverse forms of Third Space labor, and articles that propose pathways forward. Questions addressed by articles might include but are not limited to:

  • How might we redefine the nature of academic labor from a Third Space positionality, or how might we create language that more adequately describes Third Space academic labor?
  • What are the theoretical and practical connections that unify diverse forms of Third Space labor and professional identities?
  • What are the material, structural, and cultural barriers to supporting and legitimizing Third Space

academic labor?

  • How might we organize and create solidarity between Third Space laborers nationally and internationally?

Inquiries or to Submit:

 For inquiries or to submit proposals, contact Aaron Stoller at astoller@coloradocollege.edu. Prospective contributors should submit a proposal of 1-2 pages plus bibliography and a 1-paragraph author bio to Aaron Stoller astoller@coloradocollege.edu. Final contributions should be between 5,000 – 8,000 words and follow APA style.

Timeline

  • Call for Proposals: April – June 2022
  • Peer Review and Acceptance of Proposals: July – October 2022
  • Full Drafts of Papers: February 2023
  • Issue Publication: March 2023

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor is a refereed, open access journal published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES) and a collective of scholars in critical university studies, or critical higher education, promoting dignity and integrity in academic work. Contributions are aimed at higher education workplace scholar-activism and dialogue on all issues of academic labor.

Call for Papers: The Labour of COVID section of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour

Call for Papers: The Labour of COVID section of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour

As instructors and students brace for a fall semester taught on-line, the effects of COVID on the labour of post-secondary learning continue to set in. Course outlines and assessment criteria are being reworked. Students wrestle with rising tuition and the prospects of prolonged periods of unemployment. As recent Canadian Association of University Teachers survey results suggest, the pandemic is making higher education even less tenable for current and prospective students. International students stuck in their home countries will be forced to participate in classes across time zones. Research programs are being put on hold. Making matters worse, the gutting of teaching and learning resources at some universities have forced administrators to piece together support for instructors and staff ill-equipped to make the transition on-line. Workloads have increased.  But in the midst of this crisis, some post-secondary institutions seek opportunity to advance particular agendas. It was only after significant backlash from students and lecturers that the UK’s Durham University halted its attempt at providing online-only degrees in its effort to significantly cut in-person teaching. In Alberta, the government has merely delayed a performance-based funding model as a result of COVID, signaling that austerity, not improving the quality of education, is driving policy decisions. Meaningful interventions by faculty associations have been limited as the collegial governance process is sidelined for the sake of emergency pandemic measures. And what of academic and support staff who face increase workloads and the prospects of limited child care when the fall semester resumes? To this concern, what are the gendered effects of COVID? What do these circumstances mean for precariously employed sessional and term instructors? This special edition of Workplace invites all academic workers to make sense of COVID through a work and employment lens. Possible themes include:

  • Faculty association responses to a shift towards on-line education
  • “Mission creep” and the lure of distant learning for post-secondary institutions: opportunities and threats
  • The gendered and racialized implications of COVID in the classroom and on campus
  • Implications for sessionals, adjuncts and the precariously employed
  • COVID and workplace accommodations: from child care to work refusals
  • Student experiences and responses
  • COVID and performance-based funding policies
  • COVID and the collective bargaining process
  • Internationalization and the COVID campus

Aim and Scope: Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor is a refereed, electronic, open access journal published by a collective of scholars in critical higher education promoting a new dignity in academic work. Contributions are aimed primarily at higher education workplace activism and dialogue on all issues of academic labour.

Invitations: Contributions from all ranks of academic workers – from tenured and tenure stream to graduate students, sessional instructors, contract faculty, and administrative support staff – are encouraged to submit.

Deadlines: Submissions will be considered for peer review and publications on a rolling basis. The final deadline is February 28, 2021. A complete volume of The Labour of COVID will be complete and made available in the spring of 2021. Formatting and submission guidelines can be found here

https://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/information/authors

Please direct questions about the special issue to Dr. Andrew Stevens at Andrew.stevens@uregina.ca

 

Cultural Logic 2017 – Scholactivism: Transforming Praxis in and Beyond the Classroom

The editors of Cultural Logic are pleased to announce that our latest collaboration with with Works & Davids is now available online.

This triple issue of articles, reviews, and poetry was edited by Joseph G. Ramsey.

Thanks to David B. Downing and his staff at Works & Days as well as Cultural Logic co-editor David Siar and Jarib Rahman for their technical assistance in publishing this issue of Cultural Logic.

Scholactivism: Reflections on Transforming Praxis in and Beyond the Classroom

In Memoriam, Edmond Caldwell

Contents

Articles

Editors
“Editorial Note”

Marc Bousquet
“Here We Come”

Joseph G. Ramsey
“Introducing Scholactivism
Reflections on Transforming Praxis in and beyond the Classroom”

Edward J. Carvalho
“The Activist-Scholar:
A Responsibility “to confront and dismantle
Interview with Ward Churchill”

Babak Amini
“Scholactivism:
A Roundtable Interview with Ricardo Antunes, Pietro Basso, Patrick Bond, Michael Lowy, Jose Paulo Netto, and Leo Panitch”

Carl Grey Martin and Modhumita Roy
“Narrative Resistance:
A Conversation with Historian Marcus Rediker”

Toby Miller
“We Are All Activists Now”

Patrick Colm Hogan
“Politically Engaged Scholars:
An Analytic of Positions and Norms”

The MLA Subconference Collective: Bennett Carpenter, Laura Goldblatt, Lenora Hanson, Karim Wissa, and Andrew Yale
“Schol…Exodus?
Learning Within/Against/Beyond the Institution”

Jeffrey Noonan
“Resolving the Contradictions of Academic Unionism”

Gary Zabel
“Critical Revolutionary Praxis in the Neoliberal University”

Bradley M. Freeman
‘”Better Days Ahead”
Teaching Revolutionary Futures and Protesting the Present’

John Maerhofer
“Lukács, Mariátegui, and the Dialectical Roots of Edu-Activism”

Stephen C. Ferguson II and Gregory D. Meyerson
“Shred of Truth:
Antinomy and Synedoche in the Work of Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Ian Butcher
“Student Evaluations, Neoliberal Managerialism, and Networks of Mistrust”

Demetrius Noble
“I am Not that Corpse:
A Working Praxis for Black Lives Matter”

Jill McDonough
“Amos D. Squire,
Chief Physician of Sing Sing 1914-1925”

Ali Shehzad Zaidi
“The Promise and Peril of the Virtual University”

Efadul Huq and Xavier Best
‘Untangling the Scholactivist Web
“What’s on Your Mind”‘

Sophia A. McClennen
“What’s Wrong with Slactivism? Confronting the Neoliberal Assault on Millenials”

Jeffrey R. DiLeo
“Top Cover:
On Administrative Activism in the Neoliberal Academy”

Katie Hogan
“Complicit:
On Being a WGSS Program Director in the Neoliberal University”

Vincent B. Leitch
“Letter on Scholactivism:
To Graduate Students and Young Colleagues”

Marisol Cortez
“Occupy Los Intersticios!
Or, In Defense of Carbon-Free Unicorns”

Tony Van der Meer
“Fighting to be Different in the Academy”

Kim Emery
“Rights and Rebellion: The Faculty Role, Revisited”

Victor Wallis
“Richard Levins and Dialectical Thinking”

Joel Woller, Courtney Maloney, Charles Cunningham
“On the Ground with David Demarest:
Toward a Methodology of Scholar Activism”

Christopher Craig
“John Trudell and the Spirit of Life”

Contributors

 

The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking

I was recently interviewed about the impact of neoliberal capitalism on schools, universities, and education in general by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, an Algerian-based journalist.

Over the course of the interview we discussed a wide-range of issues, including: the fundamental conflict between neoliberalism and participatory democracy; the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the possibilities of transforming schools and universities into forces for progressive change and, in particular, academic freedom and free speech on campus, schools as illusion factories, curriculum as propaganda; what it means to be a dangerous citizen; and the role of intellectuals/teachers as activists.

The interview has been published in English and French, links below.

American Herald Tribune

Algérie Résistance II

Palestine Solidarité

 

Cultural Logic launches new issue #CulturalLogic21

Cultural Logic is a journal of marxism, literature, and radical politics, which has been an open access journal since it was founded in 1997.

The new issue, Cultural Logic 21, features the following articles and poetry.

Articles

Anthony Barnum
“Identifying the Theoretical Development of the League of RevolutionaryBlack Workers for a Pedagogy of Revolution”

Paul Diepenbrock
“Consolidating US Hegemony:A neo-Gramscian of Pantich and Gindin, and Konings”

Rich Gibson
“Sudents and Teachers! The Unasked Question:Why Have School?”

Matthew MacLellan
“The Gun as Political Object:Transcoding Contemporary Gun Culture and Neoliberal Governmentality”

Larry Schwartz
“The Ford Foundation, Little Magazines and The CIA in the Early Cold War”

Alan J. Spector
“Campus Activism Today — Some Lessons from Students for a Democratic Society”

Poetry

Alzo David-West
“1932, A Pseudo-Revolutionary Poem”

Cultural Logic 22 will be a massive 20th anniversary triple issue on “Schol-Activism” produced in collaboration with Works & Days. Look for it in the coming months.

Comments on Academic Freedom at the University of British Columbia

Comments on Academic Freedom at the University of British Columbia
Delivered at “Breakfast with the Dean” panel April 21, 2016

E. Wayne Ross, PhD
Professor
Faculty of Education
University of British Columbia

First of all I would like to thank Dean Blye Frank for inviting me to participate on this panel and thanks to all of you for coming out this morning to participate in a discussion on academic freedom.

On the surface, it’s easy to be pro-academic freedom, kind of like being for mom and apple pie. But, academic freedom is a contested issue in universities (and schools, but that is a very different matter).

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), describes a number of major academic freedom cases in Canada ranging from the University of Manitoba blocking a documentary film that reports findings of research on genetically modified crops; to irregularities that lead to the suspension of David F. Noble’s appointment to an endowed chair at Simon Fraser University; to Mary Bryson, the Faculty’s senior associate dean, and her battle with UBC over intellectual property rights. The arbitration decision in the Bryson case is described by CAUT as “landmark in the struggle to insure that faculty, not administrators, determine the content of courses.”[1]

In recent years there has been international attention given to the academic freedom cases of Professors Norman G. Finkelstein and Steven Salaita, who lost jobs as a result of social justice scholarship and activism, in particular, criticisms of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians living under occupation.

Threats to academic freedom are real and have a long history in Canadian postsecondary education and beyond.

CAUT defines academic freedom, in part, as including:

the right, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; … freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works; … Academic freedom always entails freedom from institutional censorship.

Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual. Academic freedom makes intellectual discourse, critique, and commitment possible.

Academic staff must not be hindered or impeded in exercising their civil rights as individuals including the right to contribute to social change through free expression of opinion on matters of public interest. Academic staff must not suffer any institutional penalties because of the exercise of such rights. [2]

In short academic freedom is essential to the mission of the university.

Dean Frank asked the members of this` panel to focus on issues of academic freedom in light of the current search to fill the new UBC position of Senior Advisor to the Provosts on Academic Freedom.

My first thought was that if we have provosts who need advisors on academic freedom, maybe they shouldn’t be provosts, really. But, perhaps I’m being too glib, even for a short breakfast talk.

Of course the creation of this new advisory position is the result of controversy created by the former chair of the UBC Board of Governors, John Montalbano, when he interfered with the academic freedom of Sauder School Professor Jennifer Berdahl, after she blogged about UBC President Arvind Gupta’s “resignation” after 13 months in office.[3]

Oh, wait a minute. Let me correct myself, like many of UBC’s self-investigation exercises the external report on the Berdahl case, written by former justice Lynn Smith, did not find fault with any individual university administrators.

“No individual intended to interfere with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom, or made a direct attempt to do so… However, sometimes several relatively small mistakes can lead to a failure of the larger system.”

Despite whatever good intentions might lurk behind the creation of the new academic freedom advisor position – and I do believe that its existence is primarily a public relations effort – at best this position is a band-aid on a life-threatening wound and at worse it is yet another diversion – a manifestation of an ideological stance that is widely held in society and practically hegemonic in universities—liberal neutrality. I’ll briefly address both of these circumstances.

Corporatization of the University (The life-threatening wound)

The corporate takeover of education at the K-12 and postsecondary levels, facilitated is by governments that might best be described as executive committees of the rich.

The trouble begins when the framework for understanding the nature and aims of education and scholarship is as a tool vital for economic success. As Thomas Docherty argues in his book Universities at War, the university has become a servant of the national and provincial economies in the context of globalization. Its driving principles of private and personal enrichment are understood as necessary conditions of progress and modernity.

Docherty sees this circumstances as a radical impoverishment of the university’s capacities to extend human possibilities and freedoms, to seek earnestly for social justice, and to participate in the endless need for the extension of democracy. Docherty argues that we must take sides in this matter because market fundamentalists are on the march and the war is being fought not just for scholars but also for a more democratic, more just, more emancipatory way of life.

The Problem of “Liberal neutrality”

In her article “Why I’m Not a Liberal,” Robin Marie Averback argues that

“In the liberal imagination, education and accommodation are self-evident solutions, since the problem can neither be understood as a matter of brute power struggles nor as a product of structural inequality fundamental to the functioning of entire institutions … You can’t choose a side when liberalism insists there are no sides at all.”[4]

This notion, helps to explain how the Smith Report on the Berdahl academic freedom case creates a victim without a victimizer. This is a pattern played out in numerous instances at UBC in recently. See, for example, the reports on:

  • the privacy breach related to documents on the Arvind Gupta imbroglio[5]
  • Commerce Undergraduate Society Frosh Week “rape chants”[6]
  • UBC handling of sexual assault complaints[7]

Averback reminds us of the picture book version of social justice that we often see on walls of community centres,

“In this picture book version of social justice struggle, no one ever opposes freedom’s forward march. All the oppressed need to do is rise up and assert themselves; the world they are fighting for is realized simply by the act of self-declaration.”

At UBC everybody seems to be for academic freedom. It’s like a picture book version of academic freedom. But in the all-administrative university – a phrase coined by Benjamin Ginsberg in his book The Fall of the Faculty – the response of the administration to an academic freedom crisis is the creation of yet another administrative position, aimed at educating and accommodating.

This reminds me of a comment someone made in the context of the recent UBC Board of Governors debacle(s) and the compromised Presidential Search Committee, “UBC doesn’t need a new driver, because the problem is with the car.”

Here are some academic freedom issues that the new position will like never come close to addressing:

  • Intellectual property rights;
  • Corporate influence on campus academic programs and research.[8]
  • Faculty loss of control over academic programs (such as the teacher education program in our faculty)
  • Respectful workplace statements that become instruments that encourage bullying and mobbing of faculty with dissenting points of view or who merely ask questions that make people uncomfortable;
  • Middle managers, like those in Sauder, who intervene like their corporate counterparts to threaten the rank and file on issues of solidarity and criticism of management (e.g., the recent UBCFA no confidence vote);
  • People like those faculty members who have warned UBC Professor Jonathan Ichikawa (sponsor of the UBCFA no-confidence vote in the Board of Governors) that his activism would negatively affect his advancement at the university;
  • Students/faculty self-funding themselves;
  • Administrative efforts to “right-size” academic programs;
  • Tenure and promotion committees that forego evaluative reading of faculty scholarship and instead focus on impact factors or the amount of external dollars won in competitions.

When no one is understood as protecting a position of power (liberal neutrality) how do we combat these threats to academic freedom? I don’t think the answer is by appointing an advisor to the provost.

Questions for discussion:

To what degree are the new policies for academic speech inscribed in academic work, regardless of where it’s done? As the academic workplace is increasingly displaced and distributed, are academic policies displaced and distributed as well? Observed at work, monitored at home and tracked in between—these are not so much choices as the cold reality of 21st century academic work.[9]

BC Premier Christy Clark has warned provincial postsecondary institutions that they must do a better job of producing graduates who meet the needs of the private sector (2014 Throne Speech). What happens to academic freedom when universities are cast as servants to the provincial or national “economic success?”

Notes

[1] CAUT, Major Academic Freedom Cases: http://www.caut.ca/issues-and-campaigns/academic-freedom/academic-freedom-cases

[2] See full CAUT statement on academic freedom here: https://www.caut.ca/about-us/caut-policy/lists/caut-policy-statements/policy-statement-on-academic-freedom – sthash.0grFSra5.dpuf

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ubc-chair-john-montalbano-resigns-after-report-finds-academic-freedom-not-protected-1.3272776

[4] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/07/why-im-not-a-liberal/

[5] http://universitycounsel.ubc.ca/files/2016/03/D-Loukidelis-Report-on-UBC-FOI-Processes-final-7-Mar-16.pdf

[6] http://president.ubc.ca/files/2013/09/Fact-Finding-Report-copy.pdf

[7] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ubc-sexual-assaults-complaints-expulsion-1.3328368

[8] See government appointments to UBC Board and U of Calgary/Enbridge relationship: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/calgary/caut-ucalgary-uofc-dru-marshall-david-robinson-1.3531851

[9] See Petrina, Ross, & Mathison (2015). Threat convergence: The new academic work, bullying, mobbing and freedom. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, 24, 58-69. Retrieved from http://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/article/view/186137/185332