Watch What You Say. How fear is stifling academic freedom.

The Chronicle recently published an interesting analysis of academic freedom in light of the the negotiated settlement between Steven Salaita and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Are cases like these contributing to a silencing of faculty?  If so, how does this speak to the calls for higher education to be more publicly engaged?

Note that this advice to carefully watch one’s words comes at precisely the same time that more and more people, both within and outside academe, are calling for more public engagement by professors. Many have counseled that we must define our value to the broader public, particularly at institutions that are funded partially through public money. I agree with all of these calls for more public expression, but consider the deep unfairness of asking for it at the same time that young scholars are being told to watch what they say. Graduate students, tenure-track faculty, adjuncts, and instructors —­ all are being asked to participate in the public conversation, yet do so under fear of profound consequences for saying the wrong thing. The Salaita affair was an extreme case. But that case sent a clear message to administrators at universities that would prefer to avoid political controversy: It’s easier to stop controversial hires, like Steven Salaita’s, before they are made. In a brutally competitive employment landscape, it’s best to deny entry to potential headaches than to remove them.

Read the entire article at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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About Dr. J. Metzker

I believe in the power of a liberal education to transform individuals and society. I am currently the Executive Director of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence. Formerly, I led a community engagement initiative and held a full professorship in chemistry at a public liberal arts university. I am a proud product of The Evergreen State College.
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