Showing posts from 2010

From the Wall Street Journal, Courtesy of David Keller


Confessions of a Tenured Professor

Confessions of a Tenured Professor May 11, 2010 By Peter D.G. Brown I must confess right off that I did not become a contingent labor activist until I turned 60, a mere six years ago. Until then, I was a fairly typical senior professor, passionately involved in teaching my students and interacting with my tenured colleagues on a variety of faculty governance committees. I have also pursued a fairly active research agenda. In addition to publishing my own scholarly articles, I have edited over a hundred books dealing with modern German literature, Jewish history and women’s studies. This year saw the publication of the third book I have written on Oskar Panizza, the 19th-century German author. When I began teaching at Columbia and Barnard in the 1960s, almost all the positions in their German departments were tenure-track. I came to SUNY New Paltz in the 70s, when there were only a couple of virtually silent and invisible part-time adjuncts among the 35 teachers in the entire Forei

Liberal Education, Faculty Responsibility, and Public Comportment

DISCLAIMER: THE HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION DEPICTED IN THIS BLOG ENTRY IS TOTALLY FICTIONAL. ANY SEMBLANCE TO EVENTS OR PERSONS, REAL OR IMAGINED, IS ENTIRELY COINCIDENTAL. Liberal Education is based on the ideal of rational study without prejudice—that is, the dispassionate evaluation of a topic with an open mind without pre judgment. Though I myself continually fall short of achieving this ideal, Liberal Education has provided the framework for my entire academic career, both as professor and as director of the ethics center. In open public forums on controversial—hence, in my view, interesting —topics, Faculty have the responsibility to serve as exemplars of the ideal of Liberal Education. One way Faculty can discharge this responsibility in open pubic discussion is to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of a speaker’s argument, and then point to potential problems with that argument. In fact, this is what we expect of good students. The worst example a Faculty can se

The Failure of Corporatized Higher Education

Different social organizations require different organizational structures. Corporations, militaries, and religions benefit from a hierarchical command-and-control organizational structure, where the leader is believed to have special skills and the greatest expertise of any other person in the organization to make difficult decisions and exhibit vision. This sort of hierarchical command-and-control organizational structure is not appropriate for other social organizations, such as democratic bodies. In democratic bodies, there is no one person whose judgment is considered absolute and definitive. Institutions of higher education are the latter type of social organization. Inappropriately and unfortunately, at UVU and across the nation, administrations have adopted the former model. This is a grave error, because leadership on campus based on corporate style command-and-control snubs the expertise of the faculty. Professors are professionals whose judgment ought to be trusted, a

Don’t ACHE/WCHE/ICHE Me! The Workload Policy as Procrustean Bed

When AAUP President Cary Nelson visited Utah last fall, my wife Anina and I had the pleasure of taking him out to Antelope Island (“I thought the salt lake was in the middle of the city”). On the drive there, I told Cary about the workload policy (ACHE, WCHE, ICHE) that had been implemented at our institution as the result of a task force chaired by deans Henrie and Rushforth. I remarked on the absurdity of foisting a mechanistic metric on the faculty workday and the antithetical nature of such a corporatized practice in the Academy. Cary agreed, noting that the type of person who gravitates towards academe and away from corporate America typically likes the flexibility and freedom of self-directed employment, rather than punching a time clock and sitting in a cubicle 9-5 under the eye of a watchful boss. And therein lies the difference in worldview between our academic affairs administration and the faculty: we look upon ourselves as members of a wider academic community who pa

Excerpts from Our Recent Letter to Our Administrators

I add to David's fine essay the thought that members of the university administration who act unilaterally and without regard to due process may be a fourth major threat to academic freedom. In that regard, let me include the following in this discussion. After stating the particulars of a case in which a faculty member on tenure track was fired without the due process required by policy, we ended our recent letter to UVU administrators with the following more general statement: Issues like this make a difference in our ability to act responsibly as faculty and administrators of the university. We hope to continue to work with you on matters of academic freedom and due process, and trust that this case can be dealt with in a speedy and fair manner. Finally, this case follows a disturbing pattern we have noted previously. Professor Hyunme Lee, for instance, also from the Art Department and also under the deanship of Kathie Debenham, was not given due process in

Three Threats to Academic Freedom at Utah Valley University

Freedom of inquiry, unfettered by political pressure, is the élan vital of the academic enterprise. Professors are professionals, and part of the essence of being a “professional” is possessing public trust. The trust granted to us, the professoriate, is academic freedom. Claims to academic freedom are legitimate if the inquiry furthers understanding of the condition of humanity and/or the processes of nature. Defense of academic freedom is a central focus of our campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors (UVU-AAUP). As an issue which transcends the partisan politics of town hall, academic freedom is neither “liberal” nor “conservative.” Inaccurately identified with the left by the right, the brute reality is that no professor is immune from interference, meddling, subversion, and suppression of academic work for non-academic pretexts. Violation of the academic freedom of “conservative” professors is as much as a possibility as violation of the academic f